Hundreds of Walter Sisulu University students from the institution’s largest campus, Nelson Mandela Drive (NMD) in Mthatha, blocked the N2 yesterday. Some threw stones at passing cars. The students were demanding answers to concerns they have about their university fees.
They also blocked campus preventing staff from entering. Police fired teargas to disperse them.
The protest action started on Wednesday and coincides with the ongoing Higher Education Fees Commission.
WSU student representative council (SRC) president of the NMD campus, Melikhaya Mchithwa, said the protest started after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s comments earlier this week. Nzimande reportedly expressed concern that a 0% increase would lead to retrenchments at universities. Mchithwa said they want the commission to release its report soon.
“They are delaying in releasing the report and there are talks of a possible increase of 6 to 8%,” said Mchithwa. “We are not going to agree with that.”
He said students have vowed they will not return to classes until their demands are met.
Mchithwa said student are also demanding allowance money for meals which they signed for long time ago but have not received it.
WSU spokesperson Yonela Thukwayo said at this stage they are not aware why students are protesting. She said usually students come to campus management with a list of grievances. Then management tries to resolve the issues. Then, if they are not happy, they protest. But in this case, Thukwayo says, management was not informed about the protest.
“We had to involve police because students moved out of the campus to the N2. At this moment there are no students but our staff are here to work. They prevented them [coming to work] earlier but some managed to come back,” she said.
Mthatha Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela said police are monitoring the situation.