The student body says the campus is “so militarised” and they are now “confused”.
The South African Student Congress says Mpumalanga University vice-chancellor Thoko Mayekiso is responsible for on-campus violent protests.
Provincial secretary Jacob Tau says there have been no academic progress in the institution and “all that students are faced with are heavily armed security all over the campus”.
“There has been confusion generally. There’s nobody attending to anybody,” Tau said.
He said Tuesday this week when they arrived on campus to begin with their exams they found no lecturers, “nobody”.
“Only heavily armed guards. It’s a militarised campus. Then the next thing the guards told the students, ‘we will shoot you. That’s all we will do’. The students were provoked and of course the security guards began shooting them and the police also came,” Tau told 013NEWS Wednesday mid-day.
Politics is reportedly blamed for the alleged chaos that occurred a week ago when Nehawu workers marched.
A march by the National Education, Health And Allied Workers Union to the Mpumalanga University is now blamed by the students after an alleged incident of exam disruptions at the University of Mpumalanga.
Thursday last week, Nehawu marched to the department of higher education demanding that vice chancellor Thoko Mayekiso is removed from her position “with immediate effect” over allegation of corruption.
“We have been veraciously complaining about issues related to irregular appointments, mismanagement of funds, alleged corruption, unilateral changes of policies and ineffective university council,” Nehawu said a day before their march, adding that all their attempts to have the ear of management were ignored.
On the week of Nehawu’s march the students were scheduled to begin exams and were shocked when they were chased out of exam halls by people serving “politics”.
According to one student who spoke to online newspaper Daily Vox, the protest came as a surprise after they thought they would now concentrate on their books having been rocked by a number of protests between March and September 2018.
“The strike affected us as students as we have worked hard preparing for our exams with limited time,” the student said.
“We as students were striking not so long ago against the corruption of the management, so this semester we didn’t attend a lot of classes. It came as a surprise to us as students when NEHAWU was chasing students out of the examination hall,” he told Daily Vox.
But in a statement, Nehawu has rubbished the claims they disrupted exams.
“The national union rejects misleading rumours that it is responsible for disrupting exams in the university,” the union said.
Another student, Vuyelwa Mnisi, said she is not against the protest but its timing.
“This whole situation is bad because we have to put our future on hold because of workers, and it’s sad because they are our parents. I’m not against them striking but I’m against them choosing this particular time, they could have chosen another time because I feel as though currently they are using us.
“A large population is being affected and another thing happening in that university is politically driven. SRC is Sasco, a student organisation of the ANC. Nehawu is the workers organisation of the ANC, the Chancellor Cyril Ramaphosa is the President of the ANC, that is why the student organisation is supporting a union of workers of the ANC,” she said.
SRC leader Mcolisi Ngcapalala said it was management that was disrupting students’ future.
“Those destructing our future is not NEHAWU or the workers,” Ngcapalala said.
“But it’s the management. What we are saying in terms of disruption of the exam is that it’s a symptom of a sickness that has been given to us by the management of the university,” he said.
Ngcapalala added that there has been no academic progress in the institution since 8 October 2018.
The march putting pressure on government to fire Mayekiso was joined by COSATU, SACP, YCL, COSAS and SANCO.
First was a R4.2 million payment made by the university to a catering company called Mathata General Trading in April last year and another, a R1.7 million, made to Magma Inc Attorneys.
Magma Inc Attorneys was the law firm she had appointed to investigate the questionable payment made to Mathatha General Trading…
“Failure of the council to decisively deal with the concerns proves that the council is conflicted and incompetent and therefore the council can no longer be trusted with their responsibilities,” Tau said.
Having been rocked by a number of protests since March 2018, this week student leaders and management sat and talked, agreeing that classes should resume at the university.
Students had been accusing management of corruption and also protesting over the issue of accomodation.
Tau said they noted a letter sent to higher education minister Naledi Pandor about the issues at the Mpumalanga institution but she “has not acted in that regard”.
“We are aware that the office of the minister is fully aware of all these grievances but we see unwillingness to resolve the issues,” he said.
Students at the university have been accused by officials of bringing tutoring to a halt because they were being used by tenderpreneurs who didn’t get work from the institution.
But Tau rejected this and said if the department really believed this they will have to take all awarding of tenders to the national office and see whether the protests over the issues they are raising will stop.
“For transparency and accountability we are struggling to understand the difficulty in assigning an investigation on the matters raised,” Tau said.
013NEWS could not be able to draw comments from management on Wednesday afternoon.
Two NGOs are heading to the Tshwane High Court to force government to respect the constitutional rights of people with regard to the air pollution being caused by Mpumalanga’s Sasol and Eskom power plants.