UP strike: AfriForum Youth’s continued pressure yields results

AfriForum Youth’s continued pressure on the management of the University of Pretoria (UP) has now borne some fruit after management announced late last night that certain classes will be offered online for the interim. The youth organisation has been in discussion with UP management since Monday about the safety of students on the university’s main campus in Hatfield and in a letter yesterday demanded that alternative arrangements, such as online classes, should be considered for the duration of the strike. Employees of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the University of Pretoria Workers’ Organisation (UPWO) have been on strike here since last week.

Students officially kicked off their academic year at UP on Monday, but were severely disillusioned when they were intimidated by striking employees and prevented from entering or leaving the campus. AfriForum Youth sent a letter to the university management on Monday and demanded urgent action in this regard. The university acknowledged receipt of the letter shortly thereafter, expressed its concern about the strikers’ breach of the agreed-upon strike rules, and said that the South African Police Service (SAPS) had been notified of problems.

Despite this feedback, as of yesterday afternoon, UP management was still tight-lipped about a concrete action plan for the further handling of this security risk, explains Ronald Peters, AfriForum Youth Manager. In a further letter to UP management, the youth organisation yesterday afternoon demanded, among other things, that UP management must immediately announce their plans for ensuring students’ safety. In addition, it was requested that alternative measures, such as online classes, be introduced and that students are not penalised if they cannot attend activities or classes on campus due to intimidation

“When it comes to the safety of students, it is the responsibility of management to act decisively and without hesitation. Students were left to their own devices for two days, while intimidation by employees continued. This simply cannot be tolerated and we trust that the university will take strict action against employees who have been guilty of this behaviour,” explains Peters. “Despite UP management’s feet-dragging approach, AfriForum Youth welcomes this decision in the interest of students’ safety. Together with the students, we look forward to the wage dispute coming to an end so that students can return to campus and take advantage of the full experience of student life.”

Although the intimidation by striking employees has not yet spilled over to other campuses of the university at this stage, AfriForum Youth is still closely monitoring the situation.