The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) closed yet again on Wednesday, after a confrontation between the police, a private security company and about 700 students on Tuesday night.
University management suspended academic activity on Wednesday, and asked staff to work from home if they could.
The EFF Student Command’s Chulumanco Mihlali Nkasela said the drama started on Tuesday night as students made their way to a planned meeting to discuss issues regarding NSFAS grants, problems with student accommodation and food which students feel is too expensive.
Nkasela said students were stopped while on their way to the meeting by the university’s private security firm, Vetus Schola. A fracas ensued and some students were hit with rubber bullets, she said.
“The situation last night was very hectic,” she said.
No textbooks, no money for food
Nkasela said the delays in disbursing NSFAS grants to “middle-year” students – those who are not in first, or final year – meant those students do not have textbooks, money for transport or food, and were uncertain about accommodation.
She has started a petition on change.org, in which she asked whether there had been a decision to walk back on the promise to pay for qualifying students’ tuition.
They were told they would be paid in April, but this was too late for exam preparation, and does not cover day-day living as it should, Nkasela said.
Nkasela also questioned the differences in pricing for student accommodation.
‘Work from home’
The university said in a bulletin that it had been monitoring the situation and decided to close the campuses.
“The situation at the Bellville campus has deteriorated and as such, the executive management has decided to cease all university operations [academic, administration and support] across all campuses on Wednesday, 11 March 2020. Staff must work from home, if possible.”
Western Cape police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said a case of public violence was being investigated after Tuesday night’s incident.
“The police took action to disperse the crowd. No injuries were reported, and no one was arrested. No incidents of violence were reported today,” she said.
Deputy Minister of Education Buti Manamela will visit NSFAS’s offices in Wynberg for a briefing.
Comment was not immediately available from Vetus Schola.