NATIONAL NEWS - The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) has obtained a high court interdict preventing disruption of academic activities and other operations at any of its campuses.
This comes as TUT has been hit by student protests and sporadic disruptions of activities in the past few weeks, by students furious over non-accredited accommodation.
The interdict was obtained on Tuesday, which allowed for the resumption of activities at the Pretoria West, Arts, Arcadia and Soshanguve campuses.
“This decision was taken to ensure no more time is lost and students are given an opportunity to complete the 2020 academic year,” said vice-chancellor and principal Professor Lourens van Staden.
Van Staden called on all students to adhere to the stipulations of the court interdict and assist TUT in maintaining an environment conducive to academic success.
A court document showed TUT had obtained an interdict against 32 participants allegedly involved in protest action at the various campuses.
The court document stipulates that the interdicted parties could not protest, incite violence and obstruct any exit or entrance, damage any property, intimidate or order students and staff to vacate the affected campuses, among others.
The court said if these orders were not followed by the interdicted parties, the public order policing unit in Tshwane could assist TUT in enforcing the orders.
Protesting students have accused the university of treating Pretoria students “unfairly” and different from those at the Polokwane campuses.
“I am a TUT student who is in debt for accommodation. I cannot go back to my room because I don’t have money to settle my debt, while NSFAS has given our institution our accommodation allowance,” Hlongwane Joseph said.
Joseph said it had been “months” since the national student financial aid scheme (NSFAS) announced that accommodation allowances had been paid out to universities.
“TUT has withheld students’ accommodation allowances who reside in individually leased accommodation in Pretoria, yet at Polokwane campuses, students in a similar situation have been allocated their allowances.
“Why must Polokwane campus be different to other campuses?”
Joseph said students were fighting this issue as accredited accommodation was expensive.
“Each student rents a room for approximately R3 500 monthly to share, while approximately R2 500 is for shuttle money. That’s ridiculous because with that amount you can get yourself your own room and have your privacy to study.
“Local places that are rented out to students are much less and you have your own room.”
He alleged that their NSFAS debt would be easier to pay back as they would have used less money.
Joseph said he felt as though there was corruption at TUT with regards to accommodation allowances being siphoned via TUTEH enterprises.
He said these accredited residences were charging students inflated market prices just because the money was coming from government.
“The withholding of these allowances since the academic year began, has meant many students who live in individually leased accommodation are owing months of rent to their landlords and many have not yet been able to return from home as the landlords will not let them occupy their rooms without settling the rent payment.
“Many landlords are owed more than R10 000 from the accumulated rent of the lockdown months.”
He has since asked for NSFAS or higher education department to intervene “as this issue is preventing many students to focus on their studies during this already strained academic year”.
“We kindly ask for help with this issue of accredited or internal residences, TUT is trying to take away the students’ right to choose by forcing them to occupy these accredited residences.
“They accredited more beds than there was a demand for and now they want to forcefully put students who reside individually leased accommodation in those newly accredited buildings, which we’ve rejected since the beginning of this year.
Pasma student leader Ntokozo Thabethe said TUT was “being very arrogant” as the off-campus allowances were already with them.
“This interdict is a way to try stop defiance from protesting students, and the reason they are doing this is because they want to take away students’ right to choose their accommodation.”
Another student who wanted to stay anonymous said it did not make sense for a Soshanguve student to go and reside in the Pretoria CBD while they could rent a place that was within walking distance to campus.
“Living off campus won’t lead us to have outstanding fees, however, living at those expensive accredited buildings might lead us into debt.”
TUT was yet to respond to enquiry at the time of going to print.