/ 20 September 2010

WSU shuts down Mthatha campus

Walter Sisulu University vice-chancellor Marcus Balintulo shut down the university’s Nelson Mandela Drive campus on Monday following the continuation of protests at the site.

On Friday Balinto had urged staff and students at the Mthatha campus to return to class this week, after lectures had been disrupted by protesting students for the past two weeks. On Wedneday two buses and the executive dining room were set alight, prompting Balintulo to suspend classes until Monday.

At the centre of the protests are the students’ demands that the university introduce a second round of supplementary exams, to be written before the September graduation ceremonies. They also want WSU to change the rule that limits the number of times students can rewrite exams on the same course before being prohibited from continuing

University spokesperson Angela Church told the Mail & Guardian that students met on Monday and resolved to boycott classes until their demands are met.

“The staff reported for duty this morning but there are no classes going on,” she said. “At the moment everything is peaceful and we are hoping that Thursday’s special senate meeting will bring and end to the protests.”

In a statement released on Monday, Balintulo expressed disappointment that students had ignored the calls to return to class and have instead continued with the “intimidation” of staff members.

He said the site would be closed indefinitely with immediate effect and ordered all students to vacte the campus and residence by Monday afternoon.

“It is highly regrettable and unfortunate that actions of an insignificant minority of students at [the Mthatha campus] have tarnished the good name and reputation of the institution for which so many have worked hard and sacrificed to build,” his statement said.

“The academic future of many of our students is now, through the actions of this minority, hanging in the balance.”

Church said the students behind the protests are part of a “breakaway group”, and the student representative council (SRC) told the M&G that it is engaging with all the stakeholders in a bid to end the deadlock.

“The students behind the protests are part of a structure that was not appointed in the correct manner, making it difficult to engage with them,” said SRC president Andile Majeke.

“However, we as the SRC have been in negotiations with the management on these issues, even before the protests started.

“The issues are of concern to all of us students, but we do not agree with the way these students have gone about voicing their concerns. As the SRC we are not for anything that disrupts the university’s academic business,” he explained. “However we are trying to reach a consensus with this group so that they realise there are procedures to be followed.”

The M&G was unable to ascertain the names of any of the “breakaway” group and so could not interview them.