The Student Representative Council (SRC) at the University of the Free State has decided to call off all protest action over fee increments indefinitely, in an effort to prevent violence and intimidation.
This comes amidst countrywide violent protests, following the announcement by the minister of higher education, Blade Nzimande that university fees for 2017 could be determined by universities themselves and up to a maximum of 8%.
SRC president at the university, Lindokuhle Ntuli, says they decided to call off all protest action following a meeting with students at a Lekgotla yesterday.
Some political factions of students at times prevented members of the SRC from addressing their fellow students and threatened them with violence. He says the struggle of students against fees cannot be used to settle political scores.
“We might find ourselves in a situation where the life of a student is at risk and students may be harmed. There is a constant sabotage against SRC leadership and the attempt of course to use the platform for ulterior and political agendas,” he said.
Ntuli says they decided to call the protests off because it has the potential to lead to serious danger and damage to property. He says the SRC subscribes to non-violent protests and does not believe in intimidation of any students.
UFS Sasco chairperson, Tumelo Rapitsi, echoed Ntuli’s sentiments, saying they hope to disassociate themselves from “violent and anarchic elements within the protests”.
He says they have identified members of a certain political party’s student movement attempting to hijack the protests for political gain. “They want it to be an issue where they grandstand and swear at the current government,” Rapitsi says. “We are not a swearing generation. We are an engaging generation and we are engaging the government on the question of free education.”
However, the withdrawal of the SRC does not mean an end to the protest action. Students have taken to lobbying among themselves, and convened at the UFS main gate this morning.
Rapitsi says this will hopefully allow students themselves to come to an agreement on what their course of action will be, and how to deal with attempts to turn their protests violent. He says their hope is for the protest to remain peaceful and without destruction of property, as this will ensure no students come to harm.
Meanwhile, the newly elected SRC president at the Central University of Technology, Ngozo Thapelo, says they will meet with students over the next two days to get a mandate from them on the way forward.
Students are set to meet at the Amphitheatre on campus at 12:00 tomorrow.
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