Will NMMU mass meeting resolve current impasse and return students to classes

OCTOBER 1, 2016

As the clock winds down to a deadline set by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) for classes to resume, all eyes will be on the outcomes of a mass meeting of students, parents and other stakeholders called by the NMMU Student Representative Council (SRC) to try and break the impasse at the university.

This week, the NMMU announced that should academic activities not resume in two weeks from the 26th of September, it will be forced to close the 2016 academic - which means students will lose out on exams and the scheduled graduations, and will need to repeat the year in 2017.

According to the SRC, the meeting, which is scheduled for the Indoor Sports Centre at South Campus, is "an opportunity for you to make your voice count and contribute in the uniting of the students. As students, we cannot be divided but be in unison with one goal and one message going forward.

"An intended invitation is called for also the Student Leaders to map a unifying way forward for the student populous of NMMU."

#FeesMustFall protests that 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 national campaign has been waged by students across the country; the majority of these students waging this campaign are against free education for the poor only and also financial assistance for the ‘missing middle’. They want government to pronounce on free education for all, and they see the Universities as the site of pursuing their struggle,” Acting NMMU Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sibongile Muthwa, told reporters at a media briefing on Tuesday.

“We have actually tried to persuade our students that there is no reason we see, why their struggle cannot be pursued while they are back in classes and learning. Because their campaign talks to the issues that cannot be resolved soon, this is a long term campaign.”

She said that the NMMU is committed to opening a dialogue with the students.

“The essence of the disagreement with the students is that they wish to wage this campaign for free education while they are not attending classes,” said Dr Muthwa.

Different groups - different agendas

However, preventing the speedy resolution to the impasse 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.

Howver, 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.

On Monday, the NMMU held meetings with two student formations in George, and one at the Kraal on the South Campus in Port Elizabeth. The SRC also held a public meeting at the city hall where things did not go so well.

The NMMU has been closed since the 21st of September.