SAUS calls for national shutdown with immediate effect.

Mon Mar 15, 2021

The South African Union of Students (SAUS) convened an urgent National Executive Committee extended meeting(including all SRCs in the country)in preparation for the 2021 academic year and the challenges that have crippled the sector. The meeting took place from the 13thto the 14thof March 2021 following the submission of student demands to the Minister of Higher Education Dr Blade Nzimande. The meeting received presentations from NSFAS;Universities South Africa (USAF);as well as from the Deputy Minister of Higher Education. Following robust and extensive engagements regarding the sector, we resolved as follows:

  1. We resolve to reject in the strongest terms the police brutality carried out by the South African Police Services against us. We call upon universities and the government to stop treating students as criminals when we are fighting the just cause of free education.
  2. The austerity measures announced by the Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to cut budgets and reduce university subsidies for higher education are a sign of uncaring government. Wet hus unambiguously and vehemently reject the neo-liberal budget that seeks to defund NSFAS thereby putting the future of many students in jeopardy. Austerity must fall!
  3. SAUS rejects the responses of the Ministry of Higher Education as outlined by the Deputy Minister. We see these responses as a “check box”exercise, unsatisfactory and with no tangible solutions to address the 15 demands submitted.This is also testament to the lack of urgency and commitment by the Ministry to amicably resolve these issues without exposing students to brutal protests.
  4. We stand firm in our view that the victimization of students in institutions of higher learning is unacceptable. We call upon universities and the ministry of higher education to ensure that all arrested students and suspended students are exonerated.
  5. Private security utilizes extreme and unnecessary force against students. They also create a militarized and high tension environment that further contributes to the problem. We therefore call on USAF to issue a directive to universities to immediately remove private security from our campuses as they remain a space of critical inquiry and engagement.
  6. We demand that NSFAS take the issues of students seriously and with urgency. SAUS continues to push for the funding decisions of all students to be communicated; appeals to be addressed;and allowances to be distributed timeously.
  7. We are also calling upon President Ramaphosa, as the head of the governing party, the head of state and chair of the cabinet,to rise to the occasion and ensure that the defunding of universities and higher education budget cuts are reversed and free education is realised not in our lifetime-but NOW!
  8. The meeting expressed dismay that whilst 9 universities are currently protesting, the Minister refused to honour our invitation to meet with SRC members during a time of major crisis. It is also clear to us that had the Minister attended, a potential solution and agreement would have been reached to resolve these matters. It is therefore evident that the Minister does not take his job seriously nor does he take SAUS, University SRC members and the students of this country seriously.
  9. The meeting resolved to call for a national shutdown all the 26 universities from Monday the 15thof March 2021. All 26 University SRCs have supported this decision unanimously. The shutdown will continue until our demands are met.

As a matter of emphasis the following are our 15 demands as submitted to Minister Nzimande:

  1. As it stands student debt is atR13 billion. Therefore we demand financial clearance & the clearance of historical debts for all students to ensure smooth registration. The University of the Western Cape has set a good precedent in this regard. A failure to clear debt is setting universities for protest and unrest.
  2. Justice for the family of Mthokozisi Ntumbawho was killed by police on the 10th of March 2021 at a Wits University. We demand an end to police brutality targeting protesting students. We further demand an end to the victimization of students and student leadership.
  3. Immediate provision of post-graduate funding. We are advocating for advanced diploma qualifications to be included in the funding framework.
  4. Allocation of NSFAS funding for first time entering students (FTENs) or new students. All first years must be unblocked for registration whilst government is still resolving the funding matters.
  5. Laptops must be provided to students as the academic year starts especially given that Universities have taken the academic program online. The agreement last year was that students will receive laptops before the start of the 2021 academic year.
  6. We demand all student allowances to be provided in March as the academic year starts in March. Landlords are already harassing students for payment and some may even face eviction.
  7. Increase student enrollment quotas to allow admission of matriculates. This includes the twenty thousand students from UNISA.
  8. Free registration for all students during the 2021 academic year. We reject the imposition of minimum initial payment (MIP).
  9. Students must be provided with their academic records and certificates, even those who owe fees to these universities.
  10. We demand zero percent fee increment for the 2021 academic year. Student leaders were not consulted when this decision was taken.
  11. We are demanding free quality education for the poor and the missing middle.
  12. We demand suspension of academic exclusion for the 2021 academic year because of the impact of Covid-19.
  13. SAUS & SRC members are demanding the 100% return of all students to campuses under level 1 of the lockdown. Students who are from homes without connectivity are already excluded from online registration.
  14. We demand the extension of the registration period to the 30th of April 2021 considering the difficulties that students and institutions are facing in the sector
  15. We demand NSFAS appeals to be opened and finalized within the next two weeks. Currently students who intend to appeal are excluded from registration.

The South African Union of Students will be guiding this shutdown to ensure that it is executed based on the following revolutionary principles:

  • Unity of the student voice despite political affiliations and background. We have already met with the student political organizations and we will continue to engage them to ensure that students are united and work together as a collective.
  • Peaceful protest and discipline. We must make it clear to the public that we are against burning of buildings, destruction of infrastructure and violence. We call upon all students to participate in this shutdown peacefully.
  • Continuous Engagement. Our national shutdown will be premised on the principle of continuous engagements with all stakeholders to find a lasting solution for the sector. Hence we encourage SRC members to continue engaging with their Vice Chancellors to resolve institutional issues whilst we are engaging government at national level.
  • Solidarity. Our shutdown will be more successful with solidarity from other progressive organizations and civil society. We will be engaging taxi associations to join our protest.
  • Determination. All the students are encouraged to be firm and courageous because this is about our future both as individuals and the future of the country. We will focus on determination and we will not give up until these demands are met.
  • Student Centered. Our national shutdown will be purely student centered in approach and in execution. We will be guarding against opportunism,infiltration and populism. We are aware that 2021 will host the local government elections and we wish to categorically state that this protest must not be used by politicians for political currency.

Conclusion

The South African Union of Students will be embarking on nation-wide institutional visits to ensure that all universities participate in this shutdown. We take this opportunity to thank all University SRC members for their wisdom and mandate regarding prioritization of students issues. We are also warning Vice Chancellors to avoid the temptation of targeting SRC members who will be implementing this resolution. We will do anything to defend our comrades on the ground. We are encouraged by UWC, CPUT and UCT to ensure financial clearance of all students to register and we are calling upon all universities to follow the example of these two institutions. We end by inviting you all to the streets on Monday the 15thof March 2021. Issued on Behalf of the South African Union of Student.

Download the SAUS Press Statement Following the Meeting between SAUS,SRCs and the Ministry of Higher Education : 14 March 2021