CUT suspends classes after protests escalate 

There was heavy police presence on 18 February as protests broke out at CUT in Bloemfontein.Photo: Pierce van Heerden

For the sake of the safety of students and staff, classes have been suspended at the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) after students initiated a “shut down” of the campus this morning over alleged unpaid allowances.

As part of the “shut down” students protested outside the institution’s main entrance, chanting and emptying rubbish bins. Although the students later took the protests to the streets, there has been a heavy police presence throughout the day and police officers could be heard warning students not to resort to violence and to avoid being arrested. As far as Bloemfontein Courant could establish, no one was injured or arrested during the protests.

According to CUT spokesperson, Dan Maritz, the management and SRC are meeting later today to come up with solutions to the issues that affects students.

In reaction to the students’ claims of unpaid allowances, Maritz told Courant that the CUT has paid over R70 million to all financially and academically deserving students.

“For any matters relating to NSFAS allowances, the institution urges students to understand that there are prescribed rules relating to these allocations. Management is acting responsibly within its means to ensure that these allocations are used for the intended purposes as prescribed by NSFAS.”

Maritz added that they cannot tell at this stage what the nature of the protests is and what it entails, because they have had a series of engagements and consultations with student leaders to deal effectively with matters relating to NSFAS allowances.

“We didn’t anticipate that these protests would reach this level of violence and disruption. Not a single student has been denied access because of financial exclusion. There were no signs of red flags.”

He said all persons are entitled to register their protests as long as it peaceful. Unfortunately, victimisation of staff and students or any disruptions of normal academic activities on both campuses will not be tolerated.

“It is a direct violation of the constitutional rights of any student who wants to study and attend classes. Management strongly condemn these incidents of violent protests. We remain determined to begin the academic year without further delay and no student or staff member will be deprived of an opportunity to exercise their rights on campus.”

Maritz concluded by extending the institution’s sincere apology to students, staff, parents, guardians, alumni and external partners for the inconvenience caused because of these unfortunate incidents. – Sazly Hartzenberg