South African Students Still Struggling for Equality and Justice
South African Students Still Struggling for Equality and Justice
By Thembela Ntongana / groundup.org.za

A group of about 50 University of Cape Town students from the Rhodes Must Fall movement erected what they call Shackville on upper campus – a corrugated iron shack, a portable flush toilet, bins and a braai stand.

They demarcated the area with red and white ticker tape and students who were not part of the protest were not allowed to pass. Students posted guards at every corner of the demarcated area.

The protest focuses on the plight of students struggling to get accommodation.

Masixole Mlandu, who has been at the forefront of recent protests, says, "The university is discriminating against those who need accommodation the most – students in first year who are coming here for the first time and have no families. There are first year students who have been put up in a lodge; the first relationship that they have with the university is a relationship of displacement ... They are told they are on the waiting list; these are the realities that they are faced with," said Mlandu.

Ivone Licenga from Gauteng and Asiphe Nodongwe from the Eastern Cape are among the first-year students experiencing accommodation problems. The university has put them up at the Riverview Lodge, Observatory.

Licenga says she arrived on Thursday and received a message that she was on a waiting list. On Friday, she was told she can no longer be considered due to capacity challenges experienced by the university.

“I stayed in Dunoon with my dad's friend, and had to travel here to register on Friday, the same day classes were starting and I missed out on them. I was then taken to the lodge by the SRC and it is not nice there.”

She says there are four of them in one room.

“There is no privacy, and with lectures we are starting to get assignments and it is difficult to concentrate; it is always noisy. We are also having transport issues; if you miss the one morning bus then you have to find your own way; the same applies in the afternoon,” said Licenga.

Nodongwe said, “When the people from student housing come to us, they tell us we are their first priority, and that they are doing their best to get us places to stay. But when you go alone, you are told to look for alternative place to stay. Those places are expensive. I cannot afford them.”

In a statement, UCT acknowledged that some 700 beds normally released in early January in any given year could not be released due to deferred exams, outstanding financial aid decisions based on increased National Student Financial Aid Scheme funding, and a dramatic increased call from students for assistance with accommodation.

The university has 6,680 beds and 27,000 students.

“We are appealing for private property owners in Cape Town that may have rooms, cottages available, to step forward and to assist us in placing the students,” stated media liaison for UCT Elijah Maholola.

The university also calls on the protesters to cease the protest action and respect the rights of other students and colleagues.

Pam Dlamini and Thembisa Ntsini at the protest site on UCT.

All Photos: Masixole Feni

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South African Students Still Struggling for Equality and Justice