Nzimande has until 5 pm today to respond to students or face shutdown

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has until 5 pm to reach the 15 demands made by protesting students or face the threat of a national shutdown of institutions from Monday next week.

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande addressing a media briefing on further measures implemented on COVID-19 within the Higher Education, Science and Innovation sectors, on 7 July 2020. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG – Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has until 5 pm on Friday afternoon to respond to a list of 15 demands from student organisations, which are threatening a national shutdown on Monday.

The South African Union of Students (SAUS) is mobilising formations from all campuses and institutions around the country to force government to listen to their demands.

At the same time, the African National Congress (ANC) is meeting with Nzimande on Friday to discuss prioritizing funds to make sure students are not excluded due to historic debt.

Among the 15 demands, students want:

  • A full return of the academic programme on campus under level one lockdown

  • The clearance of historic debt

  • Immediate provision of post-graduate funding

  • All first years must be allowed to register while government resolves the funding matter

They also want laptops to be provided to students, and that their allowance must be given this month, given that many landlords are asking for payment already.

READ: You are incompetent - MPs accuse Nzimande of not helping students

The SAUS spokesperson Thabo Shingange said if these demands were not met by 5 pm, they would make sure all places of higher learning were shut down from Monday.

“As SAUS, we will be deploying national executive members across all universities to work hand in hand with the SRC [student representative council] in this particular national shutdown. But, its going to be unique to the various universities, but we are also in our planning that’s going to come out officially tomorrow – if you think about our universities, they are not really functioning, then you must think about other things [like] the Union Buildings. You know [we can] approach the Union Buildings, the Department of Higher Education and national Treasury.”

The union of students will be meeting with SRCs from various provinces Saturday to make their final plans for next week.

At the same time, the ANC is expected to meet with Minister Nzimande on Friday, to discuss the urgent issue of funding.

The ANC in the national working committee said budget priorities should be reviewed in order to redirect funding for the provision of necessary support in institutions of higher learning.

Protests have erupted in Johannesburg, at the University of the Free State and in Limpopo while students in the capital staged a march to the higher education offices.

Student organisers are gearing up to take on government over its failure to deliver on promises – promising to disrupt campuses across the country until the money that had been given to the higher education was returned.

The governing party said while it acknowledged the crippling effect the pandemic has had on the national fiscus, money must be found to make sure no student is excluded from higher education due to historic debt.

However, it wants the higher education minister, students and university management to return to the negotiating table.

WATCH: Ace Magashule addresses protesting students

Meanwhile the South African Students Congress said they would be intensifying protests at higher education institutions country wide from next week if their demands are not met.

Students arre also calling for arrests and action after Mthokozisi Ntumba was shot dead during this week's Braamfontein protest.

Ntumba was shot, allegedly by police on Wednesday, while leaving a clinic in the area.

ALSO READ: 'We want answers, and we expect justice' – Mthokozisi Ntumba's family

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is investigating the circumstances around his death, and no arrests have yet been made.

Ntumba's family said the young father of four still had a lot to offer the country through his promising career and his passion for education.

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