Protests lead to CUT students’ arrest

Chaos broke out at the CUT Bloemfontein campus as students demanded a date for the SRC elections from management. PHOTO: MOLIEHI (DEE) RAJONASE (FACEBOOK)

Chaos broke out at the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) this week as disgruntled students demanded the institution’s management to allow the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections to go ahead.

On Monday 22 October 2018, CUT students started protesting as the year-end examination period was about to start and exams were disrupted. According to Dan Maritz, spokesperson of CUT, the elections didn’t take place as planned due to matters “beyond the control of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)” as a dispute was lodged by one of the participating student political organisations.

“As the CUT community, we have proven since 2016 that we are committed to constructive engagement with all stakeholders, and that we are serious about addressing challenges experienced by staff. We do promote student activism within the rules and policies of the university and allow peaceful demonstrations and protests, provided that the correct protocol is followed, which was not the case this morning (Monday). We then had no other option but to request the South African Police Services to assist us in restoring order on campus,” said Maritz.

Chaos unfolded at both the Bloemfontein campus as well as the Welkom campus as students demanded answers from management. The Bloemfontein campus was filled with police officials trying to keep the situation under control.

According to Natasha Lehtola, branch chairperson of Sasco at CUT and also a student at the university, a memorandum was handed over to management with some of the issues that students are facing, such as credibility of the SRC congested time tables, the pending SRC elections, phasing out of programmes, outstanding allowances and accommodation payments.

“Students do not have a voice or representation in everything that took place. The way things are looking, management plans to have an interim SRC and we don’t want that. We want a SRC that is chosen by students so that they can govern freely and fairly,” Lethola said.

Thabiso Sepolo, EFFSC presidential candidate, took to Facebook to share his thoughts on the matter. “I hope CUT students are now clear as to why the elections are postponed. The naive narrative that was inculcated to some students was very misleading and absolute rubbish! We can’t use incorrect and misguided political reasons to suspend academics. Now that VC (the Vice-Chancellor) has issued a clear detailed communique, they are shifting the blame to something else, which has no basis.”

With the protest action that took place on Monday, six students from the Central University of Technology (CUT) were arrested and appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on 23 October 2018 in connection with student protests. The six male students were granted bail of R500 each on condition that they should not take part in unlawful protest action nor disrupt exams on campus.

The elections for the new Student Representative Council (SRC) of the Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State, will be held in 2019. – Pierce van Heerden