Situation at UV calm after protests


The situation on the University of the Free State’s (UF) three campuses was calm by Monday morning and the academic program resumed as usual.

This follows after violent demonstrations took place last week on the Bloemfontein, South and Qwaqwa campuses of the UFS. The protesters were mostly students who are unhappy about the delays in NSFAS payments.

Classes took place online from Wednesday to Friday.

Lacea Loader, spokeswoman for the university, confirmed that all classes resumed on the campuses on Monday.

“The university can confirm that a large number of UFS registered students who are funded by NSFAS – but were unhappy about not receiving their money – did receive their grants on Friday,” says Loader.

In the past few weeks, the UFS management has made several efforts to keep the campuses open for learning and teaching amid challenges encountered with the disbursement of students’ NSFAS payments through eZaga, an online digital banking service, with the task of making direct payments to NSFAS beneficiaries.

NSFAS still paid grants until the end of June, but since the end of July has been using the online banking service to transfer the fees to students.

Of the approximately 21,000 UFS students who receive NSFAS grants, the information of nearly 20,000 has already been transferred to the new system. The university helped make sure all the students’ information was put on the new system. However, the university was only informed on Wednesday that only 11,000 students’ NSFAS fees had been paid.

Loader says the university is aware that a small number of students have not yet been successfully registered with eZaga. “These students must register with eZaga as soon as possible to receive their grants.”

Universities South Africa (USAf) meanwhile asked in a statement that NSFAS and the department of higher education, science and innovation should urgently investigate the direct payment of NSFAS grants and iron out problems.

“The UFS fully supports the statement and is hopeful that an amicable and urgent solution to the matter can be found.”

The UV’s protection services and the police remain on high alert and monitor the situation on the three campuses. The necessary security measures have been introduced to ensure the safety of students and staff, says Loader.

Prof. Francis Petersen, UFS rector and vice-chancellor, apologized to the students, staff members and members of the public who were affected by the protests in an online conference on Thursday. He also condemned the behavior of the striking students.

The police confirmed to RNews on Friday that a total of 22 students were arrested in connection with the protests.

Earlier it was reported that students and staff members had been assaulted, threatened and harassed by protesters since Tuesday, while cars and infrastructure were damaged. Major damage was caused to the main building of the agricultural department, where protesters threw out windows.