Durban students threaten further protests

Strike action led by the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT) student representative council (SRC) looked set to continue after the SRC issued a statement on Saturday demanding an urgent meeting with management.

A statement released by SRC president Mandla Shange read: “The SRC of DUT is not happy with the manner in which the management seeks to deal with students with outstanding fees. What they have proposed on Friday is similar to what was proposed and rejected publicly by our students.”

The SRC and the institution’s management have been at loggerheads for the past two week over how to deal with the rising student debt.

The SRC has asked for the debt to be rolled over, while the university’s management has said that it cannot afford to do so. DUT’s student debt stands at R175-million, of which R72-million was incurred during the 2007 academic year.

DUT was closed last Monday after about 300 students clashed with police and DUT security personnel in running battles on the Steve Biko campus in Durban.

Students also protested at the Indumiso campus in Imbali, Pietermaritzburg.

Following the shut down of the institution, the SRC met with the management on Thursday.
While the management issued a statement saying that there had been several resolutions, SRC spokesperson Mthunzi Gumede said that they had to first “meet with our constituents”.

On the issue of fees, the DUT statement read: “Management does not have the authority nor a mandate to approve a blanket roll-over. An agreement was reached that all students that owe and have been academically successful and not able to pay for one reason or the other will be looked at..

“The VC [vice-chancellor Roy du Pre] has committed to seeking a special meeting with council or Exco of council to deal with those students that fall outside of this category.”

However, the SRC statement on Saturday said that “that our meeting with the management on Thursday was fallacy and our views are nowhere considered in their proposed rhetoric”.

It goes on to say: “In our meeting we resolved that the students with outstanding fees were going to be assisted based on their academic performance and cases of each student were going to be entertained through interviews.

“We have not agreed that students were going to be assisted based on their financial capacity as this will affect students from previously disadvantage communities or backgrounds, who are currently not yet registered and supposed to be attending lectures on Monday.”

Attempts to obtain clarity from both the SRC and management, on where they disagreed, were unsuccessful.

The SRC statement said: “It must be made clear that the SRC seeks not to disadvantage students whom are registered and geared for the classroom. However, we seek full participation of all students should we continue to strike this week. We have requested an urgent meeting with management on Monday at 9am; should we not agree we will continue with the strike.”—Sapa

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