God has UKZN students’ back in

God has UKZN students’ back in #FeesMustFall protests

Churches pledge support to protesting UKZN students at a march held yesterday in Durban

God has UKZN students’ back in

DURBAN, 11 October – Religious leaders in KwaZulu-Natal have thrown their weight behind the #FeesMustFall movement, telling students that their churches will push for student demands to be met.

“I have looked at your memorandum, and that is going to become our agenda as a church,” KwaZulu-Natal Methodist Bishop, reverend Michael Vorster, told thousands of students who had gathered at City Hall on Tuesday at the culmination of a peaceful #FeesMustFall march.

Vorster is a past recipient of the City’s “Living Legends” award and the Diakonia Human Rights Award.

“We will ensure that in our resolutions and conversations with government and business, that [your demands] are our points as well,” said Vorster.

High ranking provincial church leaders joined students as they marched from Currie’s Fountain at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) Berea campus to City Hall to hand over a memorandum of demands to business leaders and government officials.

Students and student leaders from several universities in the province gathered at Currie’s Fountain from 9am to take part in the legal march.

SAPS members on the ground told The South African they estimated about 1500 students had taken to the streets by the time the march started just after noon, but it was evident numbers had swelled well beyond that as students made their way through the city.

A strong police presence was visible from the start of the march, with members from Public Order Policing, metro police, SAPS, DUT security and officers on horseback keeping watch.

Speaking before leaving Currie’s Fountain, student activist Sthembiso KaShandu said, “This is now a societal issue, and we need everyone to partake. It is high time that all revolutionaries join the call for free education or be prepared to stand aside and watch history being made.“We need to continue to demonstrate a high level of discipline to the government and public and show them that students are not violent in nature and are not hooligans. You must not be scared of the police that you see here, they are not here to hurt us,” said KaShandu.

The memorandum of demands called for “free decolonised quality education”, an end to police brutality, an end to “militarisation” of higher education institutions, that police are trained to deal with victims of trauma, that charges against activists be dropped and arrested students be released immediately.

They also demanded that student protesters not be detained with convicted criminals if arrested and called for a meeting with leaders from the Durban Chamber of Commerce before Friday to determine the role the Chamber could play in free education.

Some student leaders called for closure of several KZN campuses until their demands were met.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the university opened its Howard College and Westville campuses in the morning and had received reports of lectures being disrupted on both campuses.

“Risk management services on the Pietermaritzburg Campus had their hands full last night with protestors stoning various buildings on campus.”

Seshoka said the fire department had to be called in to extinguish several fires and that “masked protestors” attacked security.

Six students were arrested, said Seshoka.

The university’s risk management services, public order policing and SAPS had been “boosted” to ensure the safety and security of staff, students and university property.