Fort Hare students disrupt parents’ meeting with management

“We can beat you if we want to”, sing protesters

Photo of students

University of Fort Hare students tried to break into a meeting between management and parents. Photo: Abongile Ndevu

By Abongile Ndevu and Siphokazi Vuso

11 October 2016

University of Fort Hare University disrupted a meeting between parents and management today.

After their mass meeting on the East London campus, some students tried to enter the hall on the same campus where parents were meeting members of university management. They were denied access and gathered outside chanting ‘Singanibetha sithanda’ (we can beat you, if we want to) outside the building.

University management asked parents to leave and to return after two hours, but the meeting did not resume.

Parents had to leave a meeting with management on the East London campus. Photo: Abongile Ndevu

A parent who did not want her name used said parents had been chased out by students before the meeting had got underway. She said she could not go back because she had to go to work.

“I just want my daughter to finish her last year so I can be done here. This a waste of time, the management is losing, the students are losing, everybody is losing,” she said.

University of Fort Hare students have vowed not to return to class until their demands are met. Photo: Abongile Ndevu 

At the students’ meeting they reiterated their demands, including no fee increase in 2017 and better security in residences on the Alice campus.

Law student Somila Spongo said most students had been in a mass meeting while management held the meeting with the parents. Students did not approve because most parents could not attend since they lived too far, he said.

“We want to go back to classes and continue with our studies. But if we ignore this it will be a problem we will be forced to deal with later,” he said.

Parent Dianne Strydom said parents feared for their safety in the hall as there was only one exit and they could have been trapped.

“We came all the way for this, it is just a waste of time,” she said.

East London police spokeswoman Hazel Mgqala said police had come to monitor the situation. But there had been no violence, she said.

Meanwhile, at the Alice campus, students left another meeting when Vice Chancellor Dr Mvuyo Tom was about to address them, according to one student.

Thandikhaya Mathokazi, a member of the student representative council in Alice, said students would not go back to class until their demands are met.

“We will have a meeting with the management again. We are trying to seek a way forward,” he said.

Stakeholder Relations Manager Lizo Phithi said university management was trying to find “a common approach”.

“The students have said they are not going back to classes. This comes as a disappointment. We will engage with the students further tomorrow in search of a common approach that will suit everyone involved in this matter”.