PRESS RELEASE: SAPTU saddened by Wits-death – Hopes on swift conclusion to financial challenges

SAPTU is saddened by the turn in events at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), leading to one person’s death after students protested historical debt and financing at the institution.

The protests at many tertiary institutions are in response to the challenges experienced by students during the registration process as universities reopen for the 2021 academic year. The reported funding shortfall for the NSFAS further exacerbated the situation. The difficulties experienced due to outstanding debt is also one of the main reasons for protests at Wits.

The Minister of Finance announced during his budget speech that studying would not be compromised due to funding but did not give any commitment regarding an increase in the NSFAS budget.

“We recognise the right of every person in South Africa to life and the right to protest, as well as the right to further education,” says Adv Ben van der Walt, the general secretary of SAPTU (South African Parastatal and Tertiary Institutions Union). “We further recognise the right of employees at tertiary institutions to feel safe at their place of work. It is unacceptable when these rights are violated. Every person or institution involved should keep these rights in mind during the protests.”

SAPTU is, however, optimistic about the cabinet’s decision this week to approve additional funding of R6,1billion to the NSFAS to finance qualifying first-year students.

“We hope that this process will move along swiftly to ensure no students miss out on valuable education because of funding. We also hope that the department and tertiary institutions can offer an acceptable solution to outstanding debt as soon as possible.”

Issued by:                  SAPTU

Date:                           11 March 2021

Enquiries:                  Adv Ben van der Walt, General Secretary SAPTU                                                           Cell.: 083 260 8548