Students at the University of Cape Town, protesting at a planned 10.3% fee hike, marched on the university residences today and then on Rondebosch police station to demand the release of students arrested this morning.
The students defied an interdict stopping them from disrupting access to campus. The interdict was secured by UCT management yesterday afternoon in the Western Cape High Court. It was granted against UCT Rhodes Must Fall,#FeesMustFall, the UCT Trans Collective, SASCO UCT, PASMA UCT, PatriarchyMustFall, and the UCT Left Students Forum, among others.
Dudu Ndlovu, one of the protesters, said students had occupied Bremner Building, the administration building on UCT’s lower campus, yesterday after the court interdict had been granted. A large police contingent had then arrived.
“The police said that they would arrest people who were inside the building. Lawyers came and explained the implications of being inside the building, so people who did not want to risk being arrested sat outside,” said Ndlovu.
She said police had arrested people inside and outside the building and had used teargas and stun grenades.
“People didn’t know what was going on,” she said.
Protesters chant “arrest” us earlier today. Video by Alison Tilley.
Ndlovu said that she was then bundled into a van and taken to the Rondebosch police station where she and about 40 other protesters were kept.
They had all been released without charge. This morning, burning tyres were placed at the entrances to the university and 23 protesters were arrested.
Following the arrests, more than 300 protesters made their way from lower campus to various residences and the medical campus.
Police were present but did not try to prevent the protest action. The protesters were demanding that all outsourced workers employed at the various residences be let off work today to join in the protests. Students were also encouraged to join in the protest.
An outsourced worker for G4S, the company that provides campus protection services, told us that workers would have to be let off work all day and not just during their lunch break.
Following the march to the residences, the marchers converged on the Rondebosch police station demanding the release of those arrested earlier, while students who were on campus attended a meeting about the rise in fees and the university’s outsourcing of work.
Rorisang Moseli, a member of the incoming SRC, said at the meeting that the fee hike was “immoral for the poor”.
“Some comrades got arrested for fighting for the basic right to education”, he said.
Moseli said that outsourcing was connected to the fee increases because many of the people cleaning and cooking at UCT could be students’ parents.
“There are also exploitative working conditions at UCT. Some of you [UCT students] get higher pocket money from parents than workers get as salaries. You need to tell me how workers at UCT can send their children to UCT,” said Moseli.
“Education is the only way we will escape the poverty of the townships,” he said.
Vuyo Ntshinga, another speaker at the meeting, said that she did not understand why students were still being held at the Rondebosch police station.
Khanyisile Modiba also addressed the students and said that it was ironic that students were complaining about not being able to come to campus for one day when there were students who are barred from receiving a degree.
Acting Vice-Chancellor Francis Petersen said university management was “committed to discussions with any group related to fees, outsourced services or any other matter”.
“However, it is critical that the operations at UCT are unaffected by unlawful interruptions. Protesters who participate in unlawful behaviour are in contravention of the court order,” he said in a statement.
Petersen also said in the statement that the university was meeting Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande was also involved in other meetings “ with critical stakeholders in an attempt to make progress on getting the operations back to normal”.
Protesters have called for an emergency meeting of the university council meeting to suspend the 10.3% fee hike.
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