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SASCO-led Nelson Mandela University student protest continues despite interdict

By Afikile Lugunya - Mar 7, 2019
SASCO-led Nelson Mandela University student protest continues despite interdict

Port Elizabeth police on Thursday morning were monitoring a student protest at the Nelson Mandela University where a group of students have blocked entrances to the university's North and South campuses - despite the university enforcing an interdict against them.

The Nelson Mandela University, meanwhile, announced that classes had been postponed until further notice.



SASCO led student protest against Nelson Mandela University

Nelson Mandela University students on Wednesday afternoon embarked on protest over admissions, accommodation and registration among other issues.

“Students want to register. There can’t be financial exclusions whilst government declared free education," the South African African Students Congress (SASCO), which called for the protest wrote on their Facebook page.

SASCO is demanding that the Nelson Mandela University allows all unregistered students to be registered immediately for the 2019 academic year.

It indicated that recess is approaching and there are still unregistered students at Nelson Mandela University.

“Comrades from today till the 15th, we will be pushing all matters related to admissions and registration. SASCO has convened a mass meeting of all students to get the remaining issues and get a direction from there.

“We will attend to issues of Intelli and other university matters after. We can’t leave others outside and focus on those that are inside. Let’s all support those that cannot register,” SASCO wrote.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, the Nelson Mandela University had expected business to resume without disruptions on Thursday.

Nelson Mandela University enforces interdict against protesting students

Nelson Mandela University spokesperson, Zandile Mbabela, said that a 2018 High Court interdict aiming at protecting the rights of all university stakeholders will be used to ensure that those students, who want to conduct their business at the institution, do so without any fear or harm.

"University is left with no choice but to enforce the existing and standing interdict," she said.

"The interdict is aimed at protecting the rights of all university stakeholders – those who wish to access the University to work and pursue their studies as well as those wishing to exercise their right to protest in accordance with the conditions stipulated in the interdict."

NMU seeks to engage protesting students

According to Mbabela, the Nelson Mandela University has been actively working with the student leadership towards ensuring a smooth start to the 2019 academic year,  which meant looking at all the issues that might impede a smooth registration process, such as those pertaining to academic and residence admissions and financial aid.

"A working group was established late last year, comprising multiple University stakeholders including members of management and student leadership, with the aim of pre-empting the perennial start of the year challenges and putting measures in place to mitigate these as far as possible," she described.

"Through this working group, a number of issues were sufficiently surfaced and addressed, with those that cropped up being dealt with as they arose.

"This means that there are processes and mechanisms in place to address issues as they arise and to date, there have not been any issues that we have not been able to address or respond to."

She added that regular meetings of the working group have been taking place, with the most recent one being on Tuesday.

Mbabela said that in those meetings, students did not indicate that their issues were not being dealt with.

"There were no issues raised that could have resulted in an interruption of University operations and academic activities.

"Even at present, we remain committed to ongoing engagement with students, through the SRC, and to address issues as they arise," she added.

"It was therefore surprising to have the entrances to the university blocked [on Wednesday] afternoon, ostensibly on the understanding that there are issues that are not being addressed.

"We have also noted attempts of physical disruptions to the university programme this afternoon. Such action cannot be tolerated. It is important to note that the University has a duty to protect the rights of staff, students and all stakeholders."

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