/ 2 June 2009

Sasco attempts to force Pityana out from within

The South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) on Tuesday said it would call on the University of South Africa’s (Unisa) council to force vice-chancellor Barney Pityana to terminate his contract before it concluded.

Following a Sasco national executive committee meeting, the congress said it would suspend protests at Unisa and instead participate in the university’s upcoming Student Representative Council (SRC) elections.

”Through the SRC, organised workers and students in general we will call on the university council to force Professor Pityana not to finish his contract, which ends in December 2009. In this regard, victory is certain,” Sasco said in a statement.

Sasco president Mawethu Rune said there was no student representation at Unisa and an attempt to form an SRC last year was unsuccessful after the university failed to recognise the body after it was elected.

However, Rune said after recent talks with university management it was agreed that SRC elections would take place in July. He was confident that the body would be recognised after the election.

”We are confident that we will overwhelmingly win that election … and the new SRC will be pre-occupied with mobilising students around the issues of Unisa … including the issue of the vice-chancellor,” he said.

The Young Communist League and Sasco have called on Pityana — who is believed to support the African National Congress breakaway party, the Congress of the People — to be removed.

They have accused him of not allowing more than 200 000 students to write their mid-year exams because they were unable to pay their fees upfront.

The congress also tackled racism at higher education institutions at its three-day meeting, calling on Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to take action against those institutions involved.

It urged Nzimande to act on the recommendations made by a ministerial commission tasked with investigating racism at tertiary institutions.

Rune said Sasco was confident President Jacob Zuma would be announcing plans to provide free education up to undergraduate level in his State of the Nation address on Wednesday.

”Conscious of the constraints brought by the economic recession into the budget of the government, we, however, believe education should not be compromised as it one of the priorities promised in the African National Congress manifesto,” Sasco said. — Sapa