The United Democratic Movement (UDM) in KwaZulu-Natal is saddened by the escalation of violent student demonstrations at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and FET colleges in the province.
The UDM condemns any use of force and violence in the strongest terms. We call for cool heads and calm, as violence has already led to the tragic loss of a student’s life.
We call on all VCs and university executives to adhere to the national guidelines regarding the admission of new National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) students who are from deserving poor families. The national guidelines provide clear directives that should be followed when these students arrive for registration. No deserving underprivileged student should be turned away because of a lack of NSFAS confirmation letters as this infringes on the promises that were made to them.
The ruling party should remember that free higher education for poor and deserving households is now their governmental policy and thus requires leadership to implement effectively. There is no turning back the clock.
High levels of corruption have already caused resentment of authorities, as well as the ruling party’s government in particular. This situation is balancing on a knife’s edge and violence is likely to spread countrywide, as we are currently seeing at the University of the Witwatersrand.
The UDM is of the view that the South African Police Services should act as peace officers and refrain from using firearms and/or stun grenades. The police should enable an environment where peaceful engagement between student leadership, and university and college management are possible.
We call on government to release emergency funds to speed up the realisation of this right to free higher education for students from underprivileged backgrounds. This expanded programme can be justified economically, as free education is a strategic economic driver, because it is an investment by the state in the creation of a larger tax base in the long run. A UDM government will add one proviso to this roll-out of fee-free tertiary education, which is that students’ progress shall be monitored and managed as an investment.
The UDM in Kwa-Zulu Natal express our deepest condolences with the families of the deceased student; to friends, class mates and the entire student movement at the DUT. We will use this period to mourn the senseless death of a young fighter in the struggle for free education.
Mr Sipho Mbatha