Hundreds of students from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University marched to the offices of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber in Port Elizabeth on Thursday, under the banner of the #FeesMustFall movement.
The march began in front of City Hall and the students marched several kilometres to the Business Chamber offices near Parsons Hill all the while being watched by police officers on the scene.
For a third consecutive week the university has been on a complete shutdown while students demand free tertiary education.
Chamber CEO Kevin Hustler listened to the students’ grievances and requested them to put their concerns in writing.
Hustler then committed to table a memorandum to the leadership of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber.
“We acknowledge the #FeesMustFall student movement’s right to protest. We agree that there are fundamental challenges in the tertiary education system in South Africa, which needs to be considered seriously and addressed by the institutions as well as government,” said Hustler.
He added, however, that he did not believe bringing educational institutions to a close was helpful to the cause as this would impact on a generation of students if they were not able to complete the academic year of 2016.
“The closing of tertiary educational institutions will also have vast financial implications not only on the students, their families and the institutions, but also to the broader economy of the country.
“We therefore urge the students involved with the protest action at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) to commit to the reopening of our university so that teaching, learning and research may continue as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Huslter said that the students showed discipline in their march but encouraged them to distance themselves from intimidation, violence and destruction of infrastructure.
“This does not do their cause any justice, [it] undermine[s] their credibility and is doing more harm to our institutions and the community at large,” he said.
At a press conference held at the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber on Thursday, a student representing the Fees Must Fall Movement, Nathi Dwayi, said that the private sector had a responsibility of ensuring “it educated the citizens” of South Africa.
“We hear to appeal for support even in terms of job opportunities. We understand that government has its limitations in terms of funding free education, but we understand that there is enough money in this country if the private sector plays its role,”
Dwayi said that students’ wanted the private sector to stand in solidarity with students in the name of free education.
“We are here to say how can we explore means of funding university students even in terms of your employment opportunities, [can] you assist in addressing the inequalities of this country?” he asked.
Students under the Fees Must Fall movement also dismissed a group of parents who hired lawyers in attempt to get NMMU re-opened by way of a possible class action suit.
“The courts have been called numerous times to try and solve issues on campuses but numerous times they have failed. Reason being is that you cannot apply legal solutions to a political problem. Court interdicts obtained at UCT and WITS – all that has done is escalate matters,” said Dwayi.
-African News Agency (ANA)