Court interdicts protesting college students

Some Port Elizabeth TVET College student leaders claim they are being denied access to the college unfairly

By Joseph Chirume

10 May 2024

The High Court in Gqeberha has granted an interim interdict against any unlawful protests by students at Port Elizabeth TVET College campuses. Photo: Joseph Chirume

The Port Elizabeth TVET College has obtained an interim order from the high Court, barring all students from further disrupting academic activity at its campuses in the Eastern Cape.

Lectures and other academic activities at most of the college’s campuses have been suspended since March due to destructive protests by students.

They are protesting because of unpaid National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (NSFAS) allowances. They have called for a permanent principal, among other management issues.

However, some of these protests have been marred by violence and acts of intimidation against staff and other students. A lecturer at the college had also complained that the shutdown put pressure on them to finish a full year’s syllabus in the remaining months of this year.

This week, the college went to court to prevent all students — but specifically leaders from the EFF Student Command (EFFSC), DA Student Organisation (DASO), and the South African Students Congress (SASCO) — from causing further disruptions by blocking the gates, damaging college property and intimidating people on campus.

The interim interdict also prohibits students from organising and participating in any unlawful protest action, unlawful protest marches at any campuses or within a radius of 100 metres of any of the college’s campuses without the approval of the College Principal and College Council.

“Nothing justifies the arson, damage to state property and the trauma suffered by staff at our administration centre,” said the college’s deputy principal Dorian Baartzes. He is yet to confirm the cost of the damage by protesters to the college’s property.

He said management is currently working on resolving some of the grievances like the payment of allowances and the provision of recreational facilities.

Baartzes said the college has plans to catch-up on lectures so students will be on track for the remainder of the academic year.

Meanwhile EFFSC’s leadership claim that they are unfairly being denied access to the campuses and that some of them even face being suspended. Student leader Siyabulela Stuurman told GroundUp, “Management is lying that the issue of NSFAS has been resolved. Several students are on the verge of being evicted while others have returned to their homes because they are bankrupt.”