UCT blame RMF for ‘Shackville’ housing crisis

Rhodes Must Fall members and students gather around protest point, "Shackville". Image supplied: ANA

“It is the very action of RMF in interfering with staff and operations at UCT that compounded the accommodation issue”

The University of Cape Town (UCT) have come out all guns blazing, lambasting the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement for their lack of accountability in the current housing shortage gripping the campus – a situation encapsulated by “Shackville”, a shack that has been erected on UCT’s upper campus.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) on Monday lambasted the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement for its lack of accountability in the housing shortage on campus.

“It is the very action of RMF in interfering with staff and operations at UCT that compounded the accommodation issue as various offices that where meant to deal with the accommodation issues had to be closed due to RMF interference,” said UCT media liaison Elijah Moholola.

UCT was responding to an unsanctioned protest by RMF and some students that saw the placement of a shack on upper campus between the university’s oldest residences, Fuller and Smuts.

One of the RMF leaders, Chumani Maxwele, said that the shack was symbolic of the way in which the university expected black students to live. He said that American and European students were being prioritised while black students were put on a never-ending waiting list.

He said that if one were to visit a housing office, you would not see a single white student.

Reiterating Maxwele’s explanation were protest signs held up by students and written on the shack such as “UCT is anti black” and “Homeless@UCT”.

“UCT rejects completely the accusation by RMF that we are seeking to exclude students from accommodation on the basis of race,” said Moholola.

However, Moholola conceded that the university does indeed have an accommodation issue.

He said that the approximately 700 beds usually released in early January could not be released because of deferred exams, outstanding financial aid decisions based on increased National Student Financial Aid Scheme [NSFAS] funding made available from government, and an increased call from students for assistance with accommodation.

“We suspect this was influenced by national public statements about debt relief, the promise via NSFAS to fund all those in need, and discussions about free education,” said Moholola.

Furthermore, said Moholola, the university only has 6,680 beds. Of the 27,000 students who needed accommodation, 75 percent had to live in private accommodation.

He said however that the university was making significant progress in finding students accommodation and also called on private property owners to assist.

Moholola also dealt with RMF’s claim that UCT spends R2 million a month on private security; money the movement believes could be spent on accommodation.

“What RMF is not saying is that it is their very actions – occupation, intimidation, interfering with staff, interfering with operations – that forces UCT to have private security on campus in the first place.”

“They create that cost for UCT,” he said.

Moholola went on to condemn RMF’s behaviour that allegedly included the burning of rubbish bins, presenting a safety hazard on campus. Their protest had also seen traffic build up on and around the campus.

“We call on the protestors to cease those activities that are outside the boundaries of acceptable protest action and to respect the rights of other students and colleagues at UCT,” said Moholola.

“While we fully support RMF members’ right to freedom of expression, this right must be exercised responsibly.”

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