Fort Hare students hold protest ahead of Centenary celebrations

BY ASAVELA FEKEMA - MAY 18, 2016

While government announced that it is satisfied with preparations for the centenary celebrations at the University of Fort Hare in Alice, students forced the university to shut down on Monday and Tuesday after they protested to highlight several challenges that they are facing while studying at the historic institution – chief among them being financial support.

The protesters from the different political parties represented at the campus later gathered outside the student centre to hand a memorandum of demands to the university management.

However, the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) at Fort Hare says they will continue to mobilise students till their demands are met.

“We cannot be found celebrating #UFH100 years while we are hungry and without rez,” the EFFSC said in a tweet.

According to the Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (DASO), the party learnt from Fort Hare’s Head of the Financial Aid department, Lai-wing Alberto, that the university cannot avail more aid due to exhausted university funds. That is after the Financial Aid office previously promised to pay for the student’s fees, meals and accommodation.

The DA too will not be participating in the celebrations.

“Expensive celebrations are about to take place, ones that are funded by the Provincial Government and Presidency, and they will continue even after seeing that there are students in need of the money,” said DASO leader Yussuf Cassim.

While South African Students Congress (SASCO) on Wednesday called for a stayaway in a bid to avoid a showdown during the celebrations, African National Congress’s Youth League (ANCYL) Student leader, Sonwabiso Mamkeli, said protests will continue even on the day of the main celebrations on Friday.

“The celebration will acknowledge the role that the university has played in educating Africans. It will celebrate the values and traditions that made the university to be Africa’s most respected institution of higher learning,” said The Presidency in a statement.

Alumni from Fort Hare include former President Nelson Mandela; ANC president Oliver Tambo; Botswana’s first democratic president Seretse Khama; President Julius Nyerere of the United Republic of Tanzania; Pan-African Congress leader Robert Sobukwe; the first President of the Republic of Zambia President Kenneth Kaunda, and the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe.

President Jacob Zuma is expected to give the keynote speech at the university.

Images: EFFSC Fort Hare via Twitter