PRETORIA – Classes were suspended at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Pretoria on Wednesday after protests by students, demanding cheaper, better quality meals and the renaming of “strategic” campus buildings.
Boulders had been used to block the main entrance to the university.
Police officers had to be deployed to the campus.
“On the issue of the cafeteria or the main kitchen, the quality of the food being served at that main kitchen is not even close to be considered as healthy. Our students continue to be served crappy food. There is diarrhoea from that food they sell,” Gift Mashinini, South African Students Congress (Sasco) secretary claimed, while delivering the protesting students’ memorandum of grievances to campus management.
“Their plate of food is not healthy at all and it doesn’t even look appetising. I am sure the management has not eaten [the campus kitchen] food since 2017 started.”
The students said the external catering service provider, Desmondi Catering was not only serving “unpalatable food”, it had also increased prices beyond the reach of many.
“We therefore demand that Desmondi must leave. They are having exorbitant prices. It’s not true that the price of food can rise by R4. From a mere R20 [per plate], now it’s R25. That is impossible. Those who do economics know that that’s higher than inflation,” said Mashinini.
“We are saying the increase should have been 20c, or 30c. That we will accept. Not R4. We are tired now. Even our predecessors were complaining about Desmondi, yet it still remains in the campus.”
Singling out the engineering faculty, the students’ memorandum also demanded that TUT deals with lecturers and staff suffering from an “apartheid hangover”.
“We have lecturers in this faculty who are still suffering from [an] apartheid hangover and subjecting students to racism, inequality and one-sided failure,” Mashinini said to applause and cheers from the protesting students.
The ANC-aligned students' body demanded that buildings across the campus be named after anti-apartheid Struggle icons, including Oliver Tambo.
“We, as Sasco, are calling for the renaming of strategic buildings at this university. We are calling for the renaming to be implemented with immediate effect. Building 21 must be renamed Oliver Tambo in this year of Oliver Tambo. There is Solomon Mahlangu who died for democracy. There is people like Anton Lembede [prominent South African activist and founding president of the ANC Youth League] who fought for freedom,” said Mashinini.
TUT Vice-Chancellor and principal, Professor Lourens van Staden received the students’ memorandum and promised action.
“Comrade students … we have taken note of your memorandum. We will be very serious. As you correctly indicated, we are your parents here and we will do our level best. We will engage the central SRC with your issues and come back to you as soon as possible,” Van Staden said.
TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruyter said classes would resume at the Pretoria West campus on Thursday.
“While there was no damage to property, management condemns the disruptive behaviour of this group of students, towards their fellow students, staff members and even members of the media,” she said.
“The constitutional rights of everybody should be respected. The university respects the rights of students to protest, but similarly the rights of students and staff who want to study and work in a safe environment should be respected.”
African News Agency