South African students Union to shutdown all 26 universities from Monday
London, March 15, 2021 (AltAfrica)-The South African Union of Students (SAUS) plans to shutdown all South Africa’s 26 universities from Monday.
The union says all Student Representative Council leaders are in support of the decision and has urged students to join in the fight against financial exclusion.
SAUS says the protests will continue until their decisions are met.
The students want the scrapping of students’ R13 billion historical debt, among others.
It says measures announced by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to cut budgets and reduce university subsidies are a sign of an uncaring government.
The union convened a meeting this weekend with SRCs across the country, receiving presentations from National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Universities South Africa (USAF) and the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Buti Manamela.
SAUS has accused Higher Education Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, of refusing to honour an invitation to the meeting.
The union says the cutting of the NSFAS budget puts the future of many students in jeopardy. It has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene and ensure that budget cuts to universities are reversed.
The union also says it rejects the Manamela’s presentation as it had no tangible solutions.
“SAUS rejects the responses of the Ministry of Higher Education as outlined by the Deputy Minister. We see these responses as a “check box” exercise, unsatisfactory and with no tangible solutions to address the 15 demands submitted. This is also testament to the lack of urgency and commitment by the Ministry to amicably resolve these issues without exposing students to brutal protests.”
SAUS has also slammed “police brutality against students”. This after police allegedly shot and killed Mthokozisi Ntumba during a Wits University protest.
The union says both higher learning institutions and government need to stop treating students as criminals when they are fighting for free education.
“We stand firm in our view that the victimisation of students in institutions of higher learning is unacceptable. We call upon universities and the ministry of higher education to ensure that all arrested students and suspended students are exonerated,” the union says.
SAUS has also cautioned against “extreme and unnecessary” force from private security in handling student protests.
“They also create a militarised and high tension environment that further contributes to the problem. We therefore call on USAF to issue a directive to universities to immediately remove private security from our campuses as they remain a space of critical inquiry and engagement.”