THE student arm of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on Sunday walked out of crisis talks with Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and University of Pretoria management following a week punctuated by racially charged violence.
By late on Sunday night, it was unclear whether the universities of Pretoria or Free State would reopen on Monday.
Both universities closed their doors after being hit by violent protests, while the University of the North West’s Mahikeng campus could be shut for months after its science building, among others, was set alight. There is a high likelihood that its Potchefstroom campus will also be hit by strife.
The Department of Higher Education had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication last night.
EFF Student Command legal and transformation officer Naledi Chirwa confirmed the walkout, saying the meeting had been one-sided.
She explained that the EFF was not afforded an opportunity to air its grievances, especially on the question of transformation.
But she denied allegations that the EFF’s student wing had been the instigator of violence at the University of Pretoria or that it had intimidated others. Instead, Ms Chirwa said the EFF expected attempts to repress it because it and students were finally “tackling the real cause of the problem — white supremacy and white privilege, which is at the core of an institution that (was) built on black pain”.
Also on Sunday, representatives of the Gauteng African National Congress (ANC) and AfriForum held a joint media briefing in a show of unity amid rising temperatures on the country’s campuses.
Hope Papo, the ANC’s provincial secretary in Gauteng, said both organisations agreed to encourage dialogue and recognised that “multi-party talks have served our country as best practice to resolve matters of common interest”.
Representatives from the ANC in Gauteng, the Young Communist League, the Congress of South African Students and the South African National Civic Organisation met with AfriForum and Solidarity last Wednesday to agree on a set of principles that could underpin constructive dialogue.
They have proposed a “transformation forum” to the University of Pretoria, through which issues could be discussed, including a possible introduction of Sepedi as a language of instruction at the institution.
AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said it had undertaken to consult the university’s council and added that tolerating violence risked allowing legitimate protests to be “hijacked by a small group of radical students who are unappeasable”.
Mr Papo said: “The parties agreed to pledge and commit to throw their collective support fully behind the re-opening of (the university).”
Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang and Neeshan Balton, CEO of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, also threw their weight behind constructive dialogue.
They announced on Friday that a group of concerned citizens, led by former Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, who is also the chairwoman of the Social Cohesion Reference Group, would offer their mediation and conciliation services to resolve any impasse.