On 23 October, UP’s SRC released a statement highlighting UP’s proposed fee increments for 2018.
The statement mentions that the SRC held a meeting with UP executive management on 19 October to discuss 2018 tuition fees where executive management highlighted several points. Firstly, “an 8% increase in tuition fees for 2018 would be needed for UP to break even at the end of the fiscal year”. Secondly, “a 9.3% increase in residence fees and a 9.8% increase of residence meal prices would be needed at TuksRes”.
The SRC stressed that the numbers were not binding and would be confirmed or rebutted at a later stage. The statement mentioned that further engagements between the SRC and management were scheduled, “leading up to the Council sitting on 1st of November 2017”.
It is at this sitting that “clarity on the University’s proposed increases will be provided and students subsequently [will be] informed”.
The SRC has said that it rejects any form of increase if provisions are not made for the “missing middle” and NSFAS students. “Higher education is not a privilege but rather a right and… the SRC believe[s] that no academically deserving student should be denied the opportunity to further their education because of their financial background,” the statement says.
The UP SRC will hold a mass meeting on Friday 27 October at the Amphitheatre from 12:00 to address the proposed fee increments for 2018.
Proposed increments at other S.A. universities
On 11 October, Stellenbosch University (SU) announced an 8% increase in fees, and a 9.2% and 8% increment in student accommodation and meal quotas respectively for the 2018 academic year.
Vice Chancellor and Rector of SU, Prof. Wim de Villiers said, “The impact of the market-related fee increases for 2018 will be mitigated through financial support to academically deserving poor students linked to their combined annual household income. SU’s own bursaries will also be aligned with increases in tuition and accommodation fees.”
On 4 October University of the Free State (UFS) announced a proposed 8% fee increase for 2018. Acting vice-chancellor and rector Prof. Nicky Morgan said in a statement, “The university management is aware of the economic realities in South Africa, as well as the financial pressure households are experiencing. Morgan stressed that the university’s long-term financial sustainability and “the financial constraints which impact teaching and learning, research and community service continued to remain of utmost importance to the university’s council”.
President Jacob Zuma received the Fees Commission Report at the end of August. The commission, established by President Zuma, was charged with looking into the feasibility of free higher education after the Fees Must Fall protests across universities in 2015 and 2016.
The Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) issued a press release on 12 October “comdemn[ing] the unilateral raising of academic fees by the University of Stellenbosch”. The HETN “call[ed] on all university Councils, university Vice-Chancellors as well as their trade union (Universities South Africa) to delay their management planning cycles and desist from unilaterally raising fees for the academic year of 2018 outside state policy pronouncements and the implementation of the policy findings by the Fees Commission Report and Department of Higher Education and Training”.
On 17 October the President announced a cabinet reshuffle, making it the second reshuffling in seven months. Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande and his Deputy, Mduduzi Manana were removed from the cabinet. Nzimande was replaced by Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize, Nzimande.
Reactions to Proposed increments from other S.A. universities
On 23 October Amnesty UCT tweeted that the University of Cape Town (UCT) main library (Chancellor Oppenheimer Library on UCT’s upper campus), had been shut down. The post also mentioned that a mass meeting would take place on 24 October at 13:00. EWN reports that the facility was closed “as a precautionary measure ahead of an attempted disruption”, but that it was reopened later that day.
TimesLive reported that on 24 October “over a 1000 UCT students gathered in Jameson Hall to meet about the proposed increase in UCT fees for 2018”. Among the students were outgoing members of the UCT SRC. At the mass meeting, the outgoing SRC put forward a list of demands, some of which include a “0% fee increment at UCT, the immediate release of the Fees Commission Report [and] clearance of historical debt for the year 2017 and no financial barriers to registration for the year 2018.”
According to Mail&Guardian, UCT vice-chancellor Max Price wrote a letter to President Zuma asking for the release of the Fees Commission report. In a statement released on 23 October, UCT said that it would ordinarily have concluded consultations regarding fees with its SRC, but has not been able to do so without the fees report’s instructions.
On 24 October, UCT’s official Twitter feed tweeted, “NOTICE: All UCT operations, incl. all classes, library services & the Jammie Shuttle Service will proceed as usual on Wednesday, 25 October.”
On 25 October a march to parliament by UCT and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) was cancelled. Outgoing UCT SRC president Seipati Tshabalala told News24, “We just can’t risk anybody’s safety. Police promised to retaliate, the city promised to retaliate – we just can’t risk it.” Tshabalala also indicated that their SRC had been asked by other university campuses to delay a march until they had launched a shutdown of their own.
Tests and lectures were disrupted on 25 October with students going from faculty to faculty in an attempt to shut down campus. One of the tweets from UCT SRC’s official Twitter page said, “We are on upper campus. Operations are not continuing as usual. #UCTShutdown.”
On 25 October at 11:30 UCT’s Communication and Marketing department issued a communication explaining that due to “several protesters attempt[ing] to disrupt services on campus and set off several fire alarms”, “the executive made a decision this morning to secure the services of a private security company with the express brief to assist in safeguarding high-risk venues on campus”. The communication stated that the decision had not been taken lightly but was in compliance to the obligations the university has in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act “to ensure that the health and safety of staff and students are not compromised”.
On 20 October a video was shared on social media showing UFS students struggling to breathe when a fire distinguisher was discharged by protesters in a lecture room during a semester test. According to News24, two of the students that were present were hospitalised. News24 reported that on 20 October 36 students were arrested on the Bloemfontein campus after “clash[ing] with members of a private security company and the South African Police Service (SAPS). UFS spokesperson Lacea Loader told News24, “The university crisis team – including members of the executive management and Protection Services – is on alert and are working to stabilise the situation on the two campuses.”
News24 reports that allegations of private security assaulting students have emerged and that a probe has been launched “to investigate the use of live ammunition during student protests”. UFS released a statement on its website agreeing to allow some of the students who were traumatised by fee increment protests to write their examinations a week later, subject to certain conditions.