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NMMU student gathering over #FeesMustFall again descends into chaos

NMMU student gathering over #FeesMustFall again descends into chaos

The Nelson Mandela Municipal University (NMMU) Student Representative Council (SRC) on Monday called a mass meeting of students, parents, and concerned members of the community on to try and iron out issues that saw the NMMU remaining closed for academic business on Monday.

However, the meeting, which was eventually held at City Hall, was beset by its own problems. Firstly, transport problems resulted in the meeting starting an hour late.

When it started, one faction tried to get students to sign a petition of no confidence in the NMMU SRC – and wanted the SRC to no longer be a part of the #FeesMustFall movement. Thus, a separate meeting was also organised at the NMMU’s South Campus at the Kraal at 1pm.

At City Hall, students and parents were moved to its auditorium as things got heated between the opposing student movements. At the auditorium, SRC President, Nicholas Nyati, and the Democratic Alliance (DA) Students Organisation (DASO) leader, Yusif Cassim, presided.

The two briefly described how the current impasse at the NMMU unfolded after the announcement on fees for the 2017 academic year was made by the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande on Monday last week.

They said over the course of last week, many student memorandums had been drafted for NMMU management to consider.

However, various student leaders disagreed with the way the SRC chose to handle their grievances, but supported the principle that they needed to take their fight to the government in terms of free higher education for the poor.

That was when commotion broke out outside, in front of City Hall. Apparently, a group of angry students had gathered and were demanding that they be let inside to attend the meeting as well. But public order police officers had blocked the entrance, stating that the venue had already been filled to capacity, and that there was no more room for additional people.

When the NMMU SRC President addressed the people in the auditorium, he said that he would not be able to stand because the student protests and shutdown have made him unable to sleep and feeling ill.

“As an SRC, we have decided that we support the cause for free quality education, but we do not support shutting down Institutions. Dreams delayed are dreams denied, it’s not only 27 000 students, its 27 000 dreams. Those dreams not only belong to those students, they also belong to their families, communities and to the betterment of this country,” said Nyati.

He said that the SRC had decided that they wanted classes to resume, despite knowing that their decision would make many of the students unhappy and knowing that they might be attacked for it.

“I received a text on Thursday from one of the student leaders, and he was saying to me that we need the Taxi Association to support the march. Then he said that there was a condition; that I need to promise, as President, that when schools go back to normal that the taxi drivers will get the tender for shuttles. I did not answer his text,” he claimed.

“Throughout the mass meetings last week there were various memorandums that were drafted. And again we came to an unpopular decision on Thursday, when they said they were going to postpone the handing in of memorandums until Friday. We took the memorandum and gave it to management to answer.

“Should the protests continue, this will lead to the academic programme being compromised to the extent that we will reach a point where academic calendar for the year 2017 will significantly have to be adjusted, and possibly extended to next year,” said Nicholas reading the response to their memorandum.

The full response to the memorandum can be found on HERE.

Cassim also made a statement about the protests, saying that some political leaders are trying to hijack it to forward their own political agenda.

“If we are going to go forward we need to deal with the facts, we must make sure that politics doesn’t hijack what is a legitimate struggle and put our students at risk, and we need to encourage all students from all backgrounds to participate in fighting for those that are less fortunate,” he said.

Many parents and students at the meeting expressed their concern about the current shutdown, asking if their children would be able to finish their current year of study in time; if they would be forced to repeat the year, and if any Matric students would even be able to enrol next year.

It was then decided that the meeting would move from City Hall to a larger venue - Second Avenue Campus in Summerstrand, in order to facilitate the large majority of students outside, who also wanted to be a part of the meeting.

As students were exiting City Hall, a large number of the students outside proceeded to boo and make large noises to prevent the SRC President from addressing them. The students appeared to be affiliated with certain student party’s as well.

The SRC is hoping that academic activities will resume on Tuesday but NMMU has yet to state what their plans are. 

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