#NMMUFeesMustFall movement marches on Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber

OCTOBER 6, 2016

Hundreds of students belonging to the #NMMUFeesMustFall movement at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) on Thursday afternoon marched on the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber's offices in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth, to call on the local business sector to help foot the bill for free education. 

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO, Kevin Hustler, who came out to meet the students, requested that they put their concerns in writing and committed to then table this memorandum to the leadership of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber.

"We acknowledge the #FeesMustFall student movement’s right to protest. We agree that there are fundamental challenges in the tertiary education system in South Africa, which needs to be considered seriously and addressed by the institutions as well as government," said Hustler, while addressing the students. 

He said that business does not believe, however, that bringing educational institutions to a close is helpful to this cause as this will impact on a generation of students if they are not able to complete the academic year of 2016. 

"The closing of tertiary educational institutions will also have vast financial implications not only on the students, their families and the institutions, but also to the broader economy of the country," said Hustler.

"We therefore urge the students involved with the protest action at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) to commit to the reopening of our university so that teaching, learning and research may continue as a matter of urgency.

"Although the NMMU students have shown discipline in their march, we implore them to continue to distance themselves from intimidation, violence and destruction of infrastructure as this does not do their cause any justice, undermine their credibility and is doing more harm to our institutions and the community at large.

"The business community in Nelson Mandela Bay has contributed hugely to local academic institutions, particularly in the areas of research and development partnerships as well as by providing opportunities for deserving students in the form of bursaries and by providing access to internships and further career opportunities."

Addressing students after the march, one of the #NMMUFeesMustFall leaders, said; “We visited the Business Chamber today, to say that the private sector now has the responsibility of ensuring that it educates the citizenship of this country. So we are here to appeal for their support in terms of job opportunities etcetera.

“We are here to explore a means of funding University students. How can we ensure that even in terms of employment opportunities, that we are assisting and addressing the inequalities of this country? We are ensuring that access to the working class has broadened.”

Differences on how to address access to higher education 

The #NMMUFeesMustFall movement maintains that keeping the university's campuses is the only way to force government to listen to their calls for a 0% fee increase in 2017 - or even better, free higher education. However, the march came as concerned parents are taking legal action to force the NMMU to open doors for the resumption of the academic year.

At a meeting held on Wednesday night, the parents formed an association to take the matter to court.

On the same day, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) said that it is preparing for students to return to classes to conclude the 2016 academic year - although no date for the resumption has been decided.

Meanwhile, the #OpenNMMU group, which, as the name suggests, wants the NMMU to reopen, has entered into their second day of its silent protest, and will continue until Friday. It met with the #NMMUFeesMustFall on Wednesday.

#FeesMustFallReloaded

#FeesMustFall protests broke out on the 19th of September across the country after the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, recommended an 8% fee increment for affording students.

The shutdown at the NMMU is now in its third week and the university, last week, stated that if students do not return to class next week, it will be forced to shut down for the 2016 academic year.

That will effectively mean that students will have to repeat the year again in 2017 – a particularly stressful prospect, especially for paying parents as well as international students.

The NMMU released a list of responses to Frequently Asked Questions relating specifically to various issues and challenges at the university. Click here > FAQS

Several efforts to resolve the impasse at the NMMU have failed.

Different groups - different agendas

Preventing the speedy resolution to the impasse at the institution is that divisions have since emerged among the protesting students.

Various student groupings, including the Student Representative Council (SRC), initially formed a coalition to collectively voice their concerns in relation to the announcement, but were divided in their approach.

However, by the 21st of September, it emerged that the SRC was no longer part of the coalition. At the end of the week, the  NMMU had actually received petitions from four different student formations in Port Elizabeth and George, and responded to each by last Sunday evening.

Below are the four memoranda received from four student formations at NMMU being the SRC, the George Campus Student Council, the student FMF coalition in PE and the FMF movement on the George Campus.

The NMMU has held meetings with student formations. The SRC also recently held a public meeting at the city hall where things did not go so well.