University of the Free State (UFS)

Tensions flared when students and staff protesting against outsourcing interrupted a Varsity Cup rugby match between UFS Shimlas and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Madibaz on 22 February. Spectators responded to the disruption by assaulting protesters. University security and police intervened and the match continued. The incident has been heavily criticised for its racial undertone. UFS has condemned the violence against protesters and has launched an investigation into the violence.

The disruption of the match by protesters follows the arrests of 35 students and workers while they protested against outsourcing outside UFS’s main gate earlier that day. Workers also say that they have not been paid the wages they were promised last year following the 2015 #FeesMustFall protests.

Clarence Debeila, union organiser for the General and Industrial Workers Union, expressed concern that, while they appreciated the students’ support, certain political societies were using the protest to push their political agendas. Debeila also said workers would continue protesting until their demands were met, which include the end of outsourcing and the removal of Afrikaans as a language of tuition.

UFS announced on Monday night that lectures would be suspended due to protest action. Ongoing protests had resulted in the vandalism of UFS residences and the university’s Law building, as well as the removal of a statue of former president CR Swart. UFS management said on Tuesday 23 February that the situation was under control and that while protests continued, the situation was relatively calm. At the time of going to print, the university was expected to open on Monday 29 February.


North West University (NWU)

Students interrupted the inauguration of the new Campus Student Representative Council (CSRC) on 24 February on NWU’s Mafikeng campus. Protesters claimed that their reason for the disruption was, among other reasons, that the new CSRC was not chosen by them but rather the university as the university had dissolved the most recent CSRC to uphold its obligations to allow management and registration to proceed. Private security used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Some students were injured, but the university has denied claims that security used live ammunition and says that no students were killed. Following this, students burnt cars, the staff cafeteria, and the science centre.

NWU suspended all activities indefinitely on its Mafikeng campus on 24 February, telling students that they will be given at least one month’s notice before the campus becomes operational again. Students from the Mafikeng campus have evacuated resulting in many being displaced. NWU says that despite requests, they cannot accommodate displaced students at its Vaal and Potchefstroom campuses. Activities at the university’s other campuses have also been suspended.

NWU announced on 25 February that it had suspended former SRC president Linda Mabengwane from NWU for three years, for reasons that “include the disruption of the registration process at the Mafikeng campus on 25 January, the assault of a fellow student on the same day, wilfully bringing the name of the university into disrepute by interfering with the rights of co-students … interfering with the managerial functions of the management of the Mafikeng campus, and engaging with the media on topics or activities that were designed to bring the NWU into disrepute”. Mabengwane said that he would appeal the decision.


University of Cape Town (UCT)

In the early hours of the morning of 24 February, protesters entered UCT’s Upper Campus and threw sewage into five building. Cleaners were called in soon after to clear the mess. Some classes were cancelled during the cleaning operations.

A silent protest was also held on Wednesday by the UCT Black Academic Caucus (BAC) as a means to highlight “different forms of violence that are being silenced on our campuses in the current crisis: structural, physical, psychological, symbolic and emotional violence”.

This follows last week’s demonstration that saw protesters erect a mock shack on campus as a symbol of their allegations that UCT has a shortage of residence accommodation for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Police were called in to dismantle the shack. This angered students who then torched a Jammie shuttle bus and bakkie. They also burnt paintings and petrol bombed UCT Vice-Chancellor Max Price’s office. Eight student protesters were arrested and charged with malicious damage to property and public violence. They were released on bail the next morning and their court hearings have been postponed. UCT says that they are working to place all students who still lack residence accommodation. UCT remains open despite the disruptions.


University of the Western Cape (UWC)

Workers protesting against outsourcing and demanding a R10 000 salary disrupted classes and overturned bins on the UWC Belville campus last week. Police and security were called in following a failed arson attempt on UWC’s library. The UWC council says it will discuss workers’ demands next month when the executive meets.


University of Johannesburg (UJ)

The UJ Missing Middle Campaign has raised R31 million, IOL Online reported on Sunday. Donations have been received by the university’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof. Ihron Rensburg, as well as deans of faculties at UJ and the student advisory board.

The campaign aims to raise R60 million by the end of the year for UJ’s 5 000 “missing middle” students who are too rich for NSFAS financial aid but too poor to afford university tuition.


Durban University of Technology (DUT)

DUT has suspended its SRC president Sphesihle Mthembu, two other SRC members and three students following disruptions on the DUT Steve Biko campus on Monday 21 February. The disruptions saw classes halted, stones thrown and fire extinguishers set off in protest against outsourcing, student accommodation shortages, and transformation issues.


University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)

University workers protesting against outsourcing at UKZN’s Westville campus toppled a private security vehicle on 25 February. Off-duty outsourced workers prevented workers coming in for their shift and partook in illegal protest action. Two people were also injured in the protest. Lectures continue without disruptions.

UKZN has obtained a high court order against illegally protesting workers and has requested that the employers of the workers pay their employees a “moral wage”. 

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