Muslims students at Stellenbosch University (SU) were last week dealt a blow to their hopes of expanding the availability of halal foods on campus, when the student center management issued King Pie with a notice to vacate the premises by the end of the month. King Pie is the only halal food store currently operating at the university. The Islamic Society at the University of Stellenbosch (ISUS) has since launched a petition to have the decision overturned.
There are roughly 400 Muslim students currently studying at SU, a relatively small percentage compared to the campus population. Some of these students stay at the allocated student residences, only one of which has halal facilities.
ISUS chairman, Tashriq Pandy, said the notice had been issued to King Pie over the fact that their contract with the student centre had expired. He noted that negotiations were already underway with Standard Bank, to move them into the soon to be vacated premises.
According to Pandy, the belief was that a singly halal store on campus was not sufficient for the students, as many were being forced to eat King Pie every day, something that was essentially unhealthy.
“The student centre does have a lot of food stores, and it is unfortunate that the only halal food store is King Pie,” he said.
Despite the issue, Pandy said the university was trying to cater to the needs of the Muslim students. He noted that ISUS were in continuous engagement with university management over access to halal foods, particularly at the student residences, and that progress was slowly being made in this regard.
“It might not be as fast as we would like it to be, but things are progressing. For example, the university is considering a new halal tender to be moved into the student centre, even though they are letting King Pie go,” he noted.
He added that university management were also already in the process of establishing a ‘Halal Hub’ for students.
Amongst the other concerns were the strict regulations required of potential store owners, as well as the high costs for halal stores trying to operate in the student centre. He noted that ISUS had been approached in 2013 by a potential store owner, attempting to operate within the student centre.
“Basically he met all the requirements, and there are very strict requirements. He actually got in, but what happened was he pulled out at the end because the rent was too high, and the venue he was getting was too small,” he explained.
Students have launched a petition to lobby for public support. The petition can be found at http://www.isus.co.za. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)