On 3 May food prices in residences were officially decreased by 5% for both booked meals and item sales. The University of Pretoria’s management proposed this 5% decrease after rejecting the SRC’s request of 16%.
Katlego Malatji, SRC Secretary General, says, “Students will now be saving over R10 with every meal.”
Students were informed about the proposal at a mass meeting held by the SRC on 20 April at the Amphitheatre. However, the students present at the meeting were not impressed.
“5% is not nearly enough to make a difference in the lives of students,” said Jordan Griffiths, Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) Chairman.
“Food is a necessity for students and it should be affordable. Many students at this university are on financial aid and the fact that they must pay such large amounts of money for food will only put them in a worse off position,” explained Griffiths.
Along with the price decrease, students now get a free glass of juice with every booked meal.
“The fact that we get a free juice is not that bad, but it feels like [we still pay] the same price,” said Makhanani Balyoi, a resident in Asterhof.
“The important things have gone down, but it doesn’t make a big difference,” said Michelle Waitaker, a resident in Erika.
Tumelo Lebetle, the Secretary General of the COPE Student Movement (COPESM), pointed out that many students in residences are exclusively dependent on res food, but the high food prices mean oorhandig that their meal credit will be finished halfway through the year.
Sedupe Ramokgopa, the South African Students Congress (SASCO) Chairman, added that these concessions were only made to diffuse the matter for the time being and suggested that the prices would be hiked again.
Malatji explained that students need to understand that the University of Pretoria is one of the only institutions that offers a credit of R12 700.
Malatji also stressed that the 5% decrease is only an interim solution.
According to Steyn, the SRC will appoint independent quality controllers to visit the dining halls in order to make sure that the food is of an acceptable standard. The SRC member for residences and two representatives from the residences will in future be consulted regarding any price alterations.
“Food prices will never be changed without the involvement of students,” said Malatji.
Steyn also explained that in future the university will look at the possibility of outsourcing to outside vendors. “These vendors will be decided upon by the SRC and residence students,” said Steyn. The SRC will be circulating questionnaires at residences during house meetings to get input from students.
“We don’t want any complaints, but what they perceive as solutions to the current challenges,” explained Steyn.
Although the 5% was not welcomed with smiles, DASO, COPESM, SASCO and many other students have applauded the SRC for taking action against high food prices. “It is indeed plausible to see the student representative in parliament taking the mandate from the students seriously to enforce its implementation,” said Ramokgopa.
“We have already achieved something that hasn’t been achieved by anyone before and with the help of the students we can ensure that we reach an outcome beneficial to all,” said Steyn.