Student union wants higher education minister to be held accountable for Mthokozisi Ntumba’s death

The SA Union of Students (SAUS) in KwaZulu-Natal has called for higher education minister Blade Nzimande to be held accountable for the death of Mthokozisi Ntumba.

Students have vowed to continue protests until their demands have been met.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Ntumba, 35, was killed in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, last week when the police allegedly shot him three times at close range with rubber bullets while dispersing protesting Wits University students.

His death sent shockwaves across the country, with police minister Bheki Cele coming under fire and the public accusing the police of negligence. Police watchdog the Independent Police Investigative Directorate is investigating the death.

On Monday, the union representing all university student representative councils (SRCs) at public universities joined the national mass protest action, calling for students with outstanding debts to be allowed to register.

SAUS’s Sinenhlanhla Nyaniso led hundreds of students to the provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg to voice their grievances.

SAUS said Nzimande should not be allowed to “get off the hook” for the killing of the father of four.

“Nzimande is the cause of the death. If the department had been prepared and there were no financial exclusions of those with historical debt and there was funding for first-year students, there would have been no protests,” said Nyaniso.

Nyaniso said Nzimande must be “grilled”.

“Police exert so much brutality on unarmed students protesting to go to study. They are unreasonably aggressive and while Cele is at the centre of it as police minister, Nzimande must also be asked questions for his role in what set off the protests,” she said.

The students are calling for:

  • clearance of historical debt for students, which currently stands at R13bn;
  • justice for the family of Ntumba and the end to police brutality against students;
  • immediate provision of postgraduate funding;
  • allocation of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for first-time entering students and new students;
  • laptops for students;
  • student allowances to be provided in March;
  • increase student enrolment quotas;
  • free registration for all students during the 2021 academic year;
  • students to be provided with academic records and certificates, even if they owe fees;
  • 0% fee increment for the 2021 academic year;
  • free quality education for the poor and the missing middle;
  • suspension of academic exclusion for the 2021 academic year;
  • 100% return of all students to campuses under level 1 of the lockdown;
  • extension of registration period to April 30 2021; and
  • NSFAS appeals to be opened and finalised within the next two weeks.

The students vowed to “continue the shutdown” until their demands are met.

TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)

Zimasa Matiwane

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