We are parents of students at the University of the Western Cape and CPUT. We are in support of the Fees Must Fall campaign. We know our children. They are not violent nor hooligans. We strenuously reject, the crude propaganda of University management to cast them in this light. This is nothing short of attempting to criminalise the student struggle so as to avoid negotiating with their legitimate demands and grievances.
In October 2015, we saw one of the biggest student protests in post apartheid Africa. Students from tertiary institutions protesting against fee increments and called for “free quality Afrocentric socialist education.” Outsourced workers at the instutions joined the protest action calling for insourcing. So much has been written on the campaign and what lessons that can be learnt from it.
The protest was a response to proposed fee hikes by the institutions.
Service workers at South Africa’s universities were outsourced since the late 1990’s after the ANC government adopted its GEAR economic policy. This meant that cleaners, security, transport and catering workers were no longer directly employed by univerities. They were now employed by outsourced companies, losing most of their benefits and earning less than half their wages.
After weeks of protests and putting pressure on university management, students from poor families and workers at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University were victorious. The university council released a statement saying that they have resolved to commit the university to ending outsourcing of service workers. The council also pledged debt relief for students.
The student strike at Wits University gained momentum when the vice chancellor and his executive deadlocked in negotiations with maybe 2,000 students in the occupied Senate House (renamed Solomon Mahlangu House) over a fee hike of 10.5% for next year.
Trainee nurses at Port Elizabeth’s Lilitha campus spent three weeks locked out of the college protesting against a new protocol that required them to wear their uniforms when attending lectures.
The nurses, who are based at Lilitha’s sub-campus at Dora Nginza hospital, felt that the college was overstepping its mandate as this was not part of the agreement they had signed when they enrolled for their nursing programme.