Students occupy #FeesCommission, demand Max Price remove interdict against students

Students from the University of the Western Cape and University of Cape Town organised under the #BlackSolidarityAction movement in protest against the Fees Commission on Monday. (David Harrison, M&G)

Students from the University of the Western Cape and University of Cape Town organised under the #BlackSolidarityAction movement in protest against the Fees Commission on Monday. (David Harrison, M&G)

During the Fees Commission hearing in Cape Town, students and workers occupied the inquiry to raise their concerns about the commission’s work, which they reject.

A group of protesting students halted the proceedings of the Fees Commission at the Centre of the Book in Cape Town, where the commission was being held. The commission has been tasked with investigating the “feasibility” of free higher education, but students have said they want the commission to investigate how free education can be made a reality and not whether it is feasible.

Under the banner of #BlackSolidarityAction, students from the University of the Western Cape and the University of Cape Town (UCT) began toyi-toying before they occupied the commission.
Judge Heher, chair of the commission, was replaced by Maixole Mlandu, a UCT student who was active in the Rhodes Must Fall student movement.

“We are not only concerned with free black socialist education, but we are also concerned about the society in which we find ourselves, which is a white settler neo-colonial country,” Mlandu said, sitting in the chair at the front of the room where Judge Heher previously sat.

Workers and students took the mic, while commission heads were called “fake bourgeoisie officials” by students from #BlackSolidarityAction. Students spoke of rape and patriarchy on campus and how it has yet to be addressed while others spoke out against the commission, saying it has failed to put students first.

UCT vice-chancellor Max Price spoke earlier in the day, saying that free education must be made available to poor people in the country. Shortly after he spoke, Price was surrounded by students who refused to let him leave the proceedings.

“You can not come here and say this thing of ‘we want to give education to the poor’, while at the same time you are depriving students of their own education,” a student told him.

In February, students dismounted art from the walls of a UCT residence and burned them. The university interdicted 16 students and five students are still banned from setting foot on campus. One of these students, Alex Hotz, is not allowed to be on UCT property for the next five years.

“Alex is not studying for five years – five years – because of you and you are telling us nonsense here,” a student told Price.

Price tried to leave, but was barred by students and eventually had to be escorted out by public order police. The vice-chancellor said that students had been interdicted because they had broken the law during the protest.

But for the students who have occupied the commission, suspensions are one of the reasons they feel the commission is ineffective.

“The vice-chancellors who are inside must first remove the suspensions then we can discuss everything thereafter. But without removing the suspensions, there is no Fees Commission,” a student said.

Student protesters at various universities across the country have been suspended after the #FeesMustFall protests. The Fees Commission will hear submissions in various provinces before releasing its findings. 

Ra'eesa Pather

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