DUT STUDENTS AFFECTED BY STAFF STRIKE
Written by: Thabiso Goba and Lwazi Hlangu
Frustrated students at the Durban University of Technology demonstrated at the institution’s main campus on Wednesday following slow operations as the university staff downed tools five weeks ago.
The group of students marched to the university’s administrative building to present a memorandum with a list of grievances. Among the issues listed in the memorandum was the students’ unhappiness with the slow pace of administrative processes relating to registration for academic programmes and residences. Students say they have been left in a limbo.
Student Representative Council Chairperson, Sizwe Khathi, says they are in solidarity with the striking workers, including academics, but the start of lectures cannot be delayed indefinitely. He says students cannot be held hostage to “stomach issues”.
“We cannot ignore the issues that are facing us simply because the workers are striking. We have issues of our own (as students). It is very important [that] our mothers and fathers (the workers) be sensitive to us, we can’t [afford] to lose classes,” he says.
Staff at DUT are in their fifth week of strike after a deadlock on remuneration negotiations. This week, university management said they were making their final offer of 6.5% increase on basic salary and 6.5% on housing allowance. According to a communique sent to staff, this offer is not open for further negotiation. Meanwhile, staff want 8% on both salary increase and housing allowance. They also want a once-off payment of R9000 which is a 14th cheque they had been receiving over a number of years before the current principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, took over the reins of the university.
Khathi says they do not detach themselves from the workers’ grievances.
“We have a strong belief that as much as we (students) are not a class of our own, we owe our allegiance to the working class as the offspring of the working class,” he said.
University Registrar, Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa, accepted the memorandum. She told the students who were outside the building that they had to understand that the university staff are not employed by management, but rather the university council.
“Management has been engaging extensively with the council and that all parties are very close to reaching a solution,” she said.
Mogale Maeko, lecturer in the university’s School of Education, said the protesting staff’s demands are exclusive to the students’ demands.
“We have an interest in students but we will never sacrifice our demands just to please students. If this management can give us what we want today, the next day we [are] in class,” he said.
Khathi said as student leaders they have called on the school management to find a speedy resolution to the problem that has left many students stranded.
*Caption: Sizwe Khathi, SASCO chairperson, handing the memorandum of demands to Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa at Steve Biko office.