With a plastic bag filled with a few items of clothing, a flustered first-year mechanical engineering student said on Tuesday he was desperately trying to find a place to stay for the next week.
This after the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) instructed those living in university residences to vacate.
“I don’t know where I am going to sleep tomorrow night,” he told News24 on Tuesday.
“My flight is scheduled for Wednesday November 25. I don’t have money to make an alternative arrangement.”
The decision to vacate the residences came after weeks of violent student protests, Vice Chancellor Dr Prins Nevhutalu said in a communique to students on Monday.
He said students had until 16:00 on Wednesday to move out if immediate plans could not be arranged.
The student, who declined to be named, told News24 the past few weeks had been “terrible”.
“I have never felt so scared in my life. The violence seen from both the protesters and the police was deeply unsettling. But having nowhere to go is even worse. At least here I had a roof over my head.”
When News24 visited the university’s Bellville campus on Tuesday, most of the students were still in the residences.
“Time is running out but three days are not enough to plan an unexpected move from here to Limpopo,” another student said.
“I was supposed to leave on the last day of the month. Now I am being kicked out two weeks ahead of schedule. Who is going to pay for my bus ticket for me to get home? My parents can’t afford it.”
Carrying a plastic bag with a pillow and a jacket, another student, who also did not want to be named, said her family had scraped together just over R600 for a bus ticket to get her home on Tuesday night.
“I have to kiss the cash I paid for my plane ticket goodbye now,” the frustrated engineering student said.
“My family is seeing what’s happening on the news and they are panicking. And while this forced move is inconvenient, I will feel so much better when I get home. The last few weeks have been very bad.”
CALL FOR MEDIATION
Meanwhile, an urgent call for mediation was made via a petition signed by scores of concerned CPUT staff members.
“As concerned and committed staff of CPUT, we would like to affirm some of the core values of our university: The spirit of ubuntu, the spirit of mutual respect, the principle of equity, accountability for our actions and our belief that these principles should underpin our responses to the current crisis and the decision making for a way forward,” the petition read.
It stated that the signatories acknowledged that executive management had the intention of safeguarding students and staff in the “current volatile situation in terms of its most recent decisions”.
“However, we fear that the current closure of student residences and the suspension of examinations might spur further violence. It has given rise to conditions of mistrust, resistance and fear.
“Overall, the safety of students and staff alike has been called into question by acts of violence from both sides. We, therefore, reiterate the importance of a move toward non-violent approaches on all levels.”
The staff members called for a “process of inclusive mediation and open conversation, facilitated by neutral external third parties”. News24