/ 18 May 2009

Students threaten to make Unisa ungovernable

Students groups have threatened to make the University of South Africa (Unisa) ”ungovernable” on Thursday to demand the dismissal of vice-chancellor Barney Pityana.

”Enough is enough, Pityana must go. He is running Unisa like a spaza shop,” said Young Communist League spokesperson Castro Ngobese.

”On Thursday, we will render the University of South African ungovernable until our call has been implemented to fire Barney Pityana,” Ngobese said on Monday.

The YCL, the National Health and Allied Workers’ Union and the South African Students’ Congress announced the planned ”mass action” will take place at all Unisa centres across the country.

Ngobese said Pityana ”lacked vision” and had ”failed the workers”.

”This year we have witnessed an onslaught on more than 20 000 working-class students who have been refused to write their mid-year examinations, while those who are allowed to write find themselves without study material to prepare for their examinations,” said Ngobese.

”This we believe is as a result of the banning of the SRC [Student Representative Council] and all student organisations who would have acted as the mouthpiece of students in finding a better way of handling the crisis.”

Ngobese dismissed an announcement at the weekend that all students who make written undertakings to repay outstanding debt would still be allowed to write mid-year exams.

”That happened through the intervention of [Higher Education and Training Minister] Blade Nzimande. That can’t be used to blackmail us,” said Ngobese.

Unisa spokesperson Doreen Gough said there was no reason for Pityana to step down.

”They’ve got no grounds to ask professor Pityana to resign. They have brought no evidence of mismanagement. They are not allowed to make any institution ungovernable,” Gough told Sapa.

”This is not a democratic way of dealing with any grievances they might have. The university is always open to have an adult debate with them. If they wish to make an appointment and discuss any grievances, they are very welcome to do so,” she added.

Ngobese denied Pityana’s ”political affiliation” had anything to do with the demand that he should step down.

Many believe that Pityana’s apparent support of the Congress of the People, a party that broke away from the African National Congress, has made him unpopular.

”It has nothing [to do] with his political affiliation, it has to do with his incompetence,” said Ngobese. — Sapa