Price supports march to Parliament

Protesters displayed a variety of placards voicing their anger and determination to succeed during a March to Parliament on Wednesday October 26.

The Cape Town High court has granted UCT an interim interdict which prohibits the disruption of exams, libraries, research and other laboratories, and the ability of any of the university’s employees to do their work.

This follows weeks of protest that have seen buildings and vehicles burnt and sporadic clashes break out between protesters and police and private security. In the early hours of Monday this week, four cars were set alight in Chapel Road behind the Baxter residence.

The interdict was granted by the court on Tuesday October 25.

UCT Vice Chancellor Dr Max Price said the university would have preferred not to pursue this route, “but at this point we have no alternative”.

“The unlawful action by some of the protesters has left us no other option. We are deeply concerned for the safety of staff and students alike (including protesters) and we are extremely worried that the violence and unlawfulness that some protesters are engaging in presents a real risk to life and limb,” he said.

Yesterday, Wednesday October 26, UCT students joined protesters from other tertiary institutions in a march to Parliament, where Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivered his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement.

Dr Price called on students and staff to support the march, believing it an opportunity for them to refocus the campaign for affordable higher education on government and the national policy process, “since it is government that must solve this national crisis”.

“We may not all have exactly the same view on how higher education should be funded and whether it should be free for all. But we believe we are at one with the students in calling for a funding system that ensures that no one is prevented from studying at university for financial reasons,” he said.

“We need government to recognise that fees are not affordable for most students. We are also aligned with the students on the concern that we do not see an urgent plan. The Heher Commission is only scheduled to report in June 2017. After that report there will be public comment and debate, perhaps a White Paper and then time required for a new funding system to be put in place. It is unlikely to happen in the subsequent six months of 2017.”

He said this meant the budget for 2018/19 would not have solved the 2019 tertiary education fees issue.

“It means that for the next three years or so, we will have an annual crisis like this where the government and the Department of Higher Education and Training and others are trying to find money to avoid an increase while a policy is being put in place.”