On 17 January EFFSC UP spokesperson Lungile Sonwabo posted on Twitter: “The University of Pretoria is not allowing fallists to register unless they bind themselves to a contract not to partake in protest action”. This was retweeted by EFFSC UP. Sonwabo also tweeted, “This university [UP] has never allowed any processes. Even our suspensions were unlawful. They really defeat me”, alongside a photo of an email he received from the university demanding a formal written request to UP management indicating why a request to register should be considered, and what students are willing to do to avoid disruptions again. The deadline for the formal request was dated 23 January. UP management highlighted in the email that the terms and conditions in the registration of 2016 stipulate that the university is not legally obliged to accept the registration application of any student. It was further noted that “in the event that you have been awarded placement in a university residence and your request of re-registration in 2017 of a student is not approved, you will automatically forfeit such resident placement”.
President of the TSC, Henrico Barnard, said, “The university understands the importance of giving these students (those with a pending criminal cases) the opportunity to continue their education and as a result, they are allowing students onto campus, even though they have criminal cases against them that are still pending.” Barnard added that students held accountable for their actions are requested to submit a written undertaking to abide by the rules and regulations of UP as well as the laws of the country, and by doing so reach an agreement to continue their studies.
Barnard expressed his views on last year’s protests, saying they had a detrimental impact on students’ studies, and that it was important to restore stability on campus in order to ensure that the academic programme continues undisturbed.
Rethabile Shabalala of Fees Must Fall said of the letters sent to students involved in the protests , “Basically what we are looking at here is a bargain, your education, in exchange for your right to protest. I think it’s also important to take note that the university has shown a complete disregard and lack of appreciation for legal processes and the one’s rights before the law. None of these students have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty for the alleged crime. So the basis upon which these letters were sent is very questionable and seems highly discriminatory and arbitrary as no other student outside of the activist community has received such communication.”
On 21 January, an EWN article stated that the South African Union of Students (SAUS) had threatened to shut down UP if the university refuses the reregistration of students who have a pending criminal case against them. According to SABC News, SAUS General Secretary Sthembiso Ndlovu said there were approximately 36 students at UP who were requested to write the formal request. Ndlovu then questioned why students had to write letters merely because they were leading “a struggle”. He said, “You can’t just write a letter explaining why you must register. If you are in university and you have passed all your subjects and you are not academically excluded or financially excluded you must be allowed to continue with studies.” Ndlovu affirmed that “We [SAUS] will definitely shut down the university. We will show them that the voice of the students will always be the reigning voice in all institutions of higher learning.”
According to UP Spokesperson Candice Jooste, most of the students who had received letters requesting motivation for re-registration had engaged with management and were allowed to register for the year.