University of Pretoria 'like Alcatraz' - EFF students

Onthatile Marang says Fighters can't even hold peaceful demonstrations on campus

University of Pretoria 'like Alcatraz' - EFF students

Pretoria- The Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) at the University of Pretoria has accused the institution of silencing students who try to voice their concerns regarding the process dealing with the university's language policy.

"Students are being silenced because the university still has the court order hanging over their heads," EFFSC transformation officer Onthatile Marang told News24.

"We can't even have peaceful demonstrations. Every time we try to do anything there are police here. The place is like Alcatraz."

The institution has been looking at ways to deal with its language policy following protests over the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. Earlier in the year there were clashes between students after a call by organisations, including the EFF, that Afrikaans be removed as a medium of instruction at the university. The clashes led to the university temporarily closing down. The institution then introduced processes to find an amicable solution that would suit all parties.

The various stakeholders have been attending lekgotlas that were looking into the issue but the EFFSC says they have pulled out of the processes as they did not believe they would yield results.

During a lekgotla that was held in February, stakeholders were allegedly told to sign a peace accord that would see the institution lifting the court order and engaging student organisations going forward.

"The university was supposed to sign the peace accord and lift the court order but the vice-chancellor did not do that. They keep using it to silence students every time we try to raise issues. There was a time we went to the administrative building to speak to the vice-chancellor and assist a student but we found public order police and security there," said Marang.

No decision-making powers

During the same lekgotla, work streams to deal with language, curriculum transformation and residence life were allegedly set up, but the student body says the process was done without consultation with the other stakeholders and it was imposed on them. They say they have decided to pull out of the processes.

The organisation's Amla Monageng said they scrutinised the work streams and realised they had no decision-making powers and the people that were appointed to lead them were imposed on them.

"As the EFF we analysed why they were established but we then discovered that they don't have any decision-making powers. Even the lekgotla itself doesn't have powers but can only make recommendations. Secondly, we have streams facilitated by people who never diagnosed any problems in the system," he said.

Monageng said the people leading the process were employees of the institution who had been there for many decades and never saw anything wrong with the status quo

The university wanted to dictate to them how things should happen and what should be considered, he said.

"We had the challenge of the terms of reference. The university comes on board to negotiate but it dictates the terms of reference to us. Also the time frames that were put on the table.”

Monageng also questioned how the university could appoint an independent body to look at the issue of transformation while the working streams were looking into the matter.

"We can't have two parallel processes. What if one decides that we should have [the university's] language policy and the other one says we should have a multi-language policy? We are still confused ourselves by these two processes," he said.

Two sides to a story

The general secretary of the student branch of the EFF at the University of Pretoria, Wezile Madonsela said they wanted to give their side of the story, which the university was not allowing the rest of the country to hear.

"South Africa needs to know what the media has not reported on regarding what AfrikaansMustFall is all about. We are labeled as aggravators and inciters of violence," she said.

University of Pretoria spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer told News24 that during a recent sitting of the senate, the language policy was discussed but no final decision was reached. She disputed claims that the stream leaders were imposed on students.

"The mandate of the work streams and their composition were decided at the first lekgotla. The option to choose their own chairperson was open to all work streams. At least two work streams utilised this option. In one case a student co-chair was elected, in another the convener was unanimously asked to chair," she said.

This article first appeared on News24 – see here