FRANCOIS VAN DER WESTHUIZEN
All of TUT’s campuses were closed following violent student protests.
Students barricaded the gates of TUT’s Pretoria West campus with burning tyres on 15 August. The violence escalated the following day when students threw stones and petrol bombs at the university’s buildings.
This protest action took place despite the fact that an agreement had already been reached to resolve the concerns raised by students regarding campus facilities, the state of residences and the availability of financial assistance to students in need.
TUT management decided to close the Pretoria West, Soshanguve and Ga-Rankuwa campuses on 16 August to prevent damages to university property and to protect students and staff from harm. An urgent court interdict was obtained by TUT management to prohibit students from participating in illegal protest action or damaging university property.
TUT Vice Chancellor Professor Nthabiseng Ogude said that academics should be first priority and that unruly and undisciplined behaviour by students cannot be tolerated. The university said in an announcement on 17 August that, “Students’ violent behaviour and continued refusal to engage management constructively on their issues has left the university with no other option than to close the respective campuses until further notice. Yesterday, students and external people, some of whom were intoxicated, stoned buildings and threw petrol bombs causing extensive damage to property.”
Deputy Minister of Higher Education Mduduzi Manana met with the TUT SRC on Saturday 18 August. He said, “We have the responsibility to hear both sides of the story. We are hoping we can help them settle this dispute.”
The South African Students Congress said in a statement, “We are dismayed that management has sought to deal with these issues through the courts instead of calling meetings with students’ representatives,” and added that, “we believe the crisis of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme of South Africa is part of the deep-seated structural problems compounded by a corroded administration in TUT.”
TUT announced last week Thursday that classes are set to resume today.