Executive Update: Message from the VC

30 September 2016 | Story by Newsroom
Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price
Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price

Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price and other members of the University of Cape Town executive met with about 200 protesters outside the Bremner building this morning and received their memorandum of demands. This group is opposed to the university reopening for classes on Monday, 3 October 2016. While Dr Price agreed to engage with their issues, he stressed the importance for everyone of keeping campus open for those who need to attend classes and study.

These protesters later left Bremner and marched to Jammie plaza where a silent protest of about 2 000 staff and students was calling for UCT to reopen for classes on Monday. Participants in the silent protest gathered on the steps of Jameson Hall from 12:00 to 13:00 holding books and displaying placards calling for the reopening of classes.

Protesters remain in occupation of the Steve Biko building. Some barricades were erected at the north and south entrances to upper campus, but these were removed and caused only temporary blockages.

The Senior Leadership Group (SLG) of UCT met this morning. They discussed reports of the engagements that took place during the week in all faculties and various departments. Some of the planned activities were disrupted by protesters or cancelled due to the closure of the units at certain times, but many staff and students nevertheless participated across the campus and in alternative spaces.

Dr Price returned from Johannesburg on Thursday night, 29 September, after meeting with vice-chancellors from other South African universities. He reported that while a few universities currently enjoy uninterrupted operations, more universities are facing protest action while they remain open, and the largest group of universities is either closed, in the process of closing or in recess as a result of protest action. Deep concern was expressed by university leaders about the academic project and their ability to conclude the year successfully if institutions are not functioning fully by Monday or within the next week. There is the possibility of a meeting early next week between student leaders, university leaders and Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande.

Dr Price reported that various engagements with student leaders and those involved in protest action at UCT have taken place in the last week. A further meeting with the leaders of the protesting group is planned before the weekend in the hope of getting a commitment to opening for classes next week with minimum security presence and to beginning an institutional engagement process as soon as possible.

Chair of Council, Mr Sipho Pityana, has sent an audio message to the campus, supporting the call to reopen on Monday. Mr Pityana says: “Unlike in the past, no one should risk not completing their education in order to be heard or realise a just and noble cause, as we are talking about. No one should risk criminalisation by engaging in acts of arson, damage to property and violence in exchanges with each other. The institutions of higher learning are our institutions; they are our inheritance; they are our assets as a nation and not those of the apartheid system and not those of the colonisers. They are ours – we should protect them, defend them and jealously guard them in every legal way we can.”

In a video message to the UCT community, Professor Anwar Mall, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Transformation and Student Affairs, explains the risks of a continued UCT shutdown for the university and for South Africa and urges all stakeholders to work together to reopen the university on Monday, 3 October.

The five UCT students who have been interdicted and barred from coming onto campus have had their case heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). According to media reports, the SCA has proposed a compromise that will allow the interdict to be lifted if the students agree not to participate in any unlawful conduct or deface or destroy university property. However, this agreement will not necessarily have any influence on the Student Disciplinary Tribunal process regarding these students. The final SCA decision was not announced at the time of this update.

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