Rhodes students rebuild barricades; demand action from management

Mako Muzenda

A small group of students this evening gathered at the Drostdy Lawns to plan a way forward in regards to protest action.  This meeting comes after Vice-Chancellor Dr Mabizela’s address earlier this morning to students at the Day Kaif that left some students feeling dissatisfied with the University’s response to the issues of financial exclusion and historical debt.

In the meeting earlier in the day, Dr Mabizela made it clear that all students who have met the already agreed to criteria (as decided upon last year) would not be financially excluded. He cautioned, however, that students do not forget the difference between academic and financial exclusion as students performing poorly do not fall under the provisions of the agreement.

Students met at the Drostdy Lawns and proceeded to march up Rhodes campus, past different residences, and back down to the Arch where their meeting began in earnest. The peaceful march was followed by a discussion on whether or not to shut down the university and barricade entrances, as was done in last year’s protests. 

Prominent voices such as Thembani Onceya and Siseko Kumalo were present at the meeting, and after urging students to remain peaceful and diligent, marchers moved to set up barricades by the Drama Department. 

The arrival of Dr. Mabizela accompanied by a light South African Police Service (SAPS) presence temporarily halted the proceedings as students were afraid of police action. 

Dr. Mabizela ordered that the barricades be taken down, as Rhodes staff had so far complied with the demands of students, and stated that the removal of these barricades could be enforced by law. However, despite this, students did not take the barricades down. Mabizela and Campus Protection Unit moved the barricades by the Drama Department themselves.

Also present was Director of Student Affairs Dr. Colleen Vassiliou and Babalwa Sishuta from the Department of Sociology. 

Vassiliou reiterated the university’s commitment to helping students who have been financially excluded. “If there is any student that has been financially excluded and they would like to come forward, please email me and we will follow up with these students.”

Vassiliou expressed doubt over whether the university would be shut down and lectures and tutorials cancelled.

Sishuta talked to the protesters and urged them to consider the programmes of their fellow students before leaving. 

After the setting up of barricades by the Drama Department, some students moved to Eden Grove to continue the barricading whilst others remained at the Drama Department. Barricades were also set up by the Steve Biko Building.

Throughout the course of the evening the number of students present increased but did not exceed more than 100, although they were cheered on by students in the residences that they passed. 

The presence of SAPS and CPU did not deter students, and after initial fear of police action, students resumed building the barricades.  What remains to be decided is a way forward as there seems to be no full agreement in the student body on whether or not to shut down the university or not. 

As it stands, academics have not been cancelled for 25 February.


This article was originally published here

Source:  Activate Online

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