Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane has been appointed to investigate the problems that led to the closure of the Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape, the presidency has said.
President Jacob Zuma assigned Chabane to work with representatives there to ensure learning was restored at the university, a statement said today.
Last Wednesday, the university closed its doors indefinitely following volatility associated with a prolonged strike by staff.
Chabane’s appointment comes after the SA Council of Churches in Mthatha wrote to Zuma asking him to intervene in the crisis.
Chabane has since established a technical committee of directors-general, and was consulting within government. He would also hold discussions with the affected parties.
“We need to work collectively with all stakeholders to urgently ensure that all (students) return to class,” he said.
Higher education director-general Gwebs Qonde has said the university was technically and commercially bankrupt and could only afford a 4.25% increase this year.
He said he met the parties concerned in early August, but was unable to reach a settlement about increases, as the unions did not appear to grasp the gravity of their demands, and the potentially disastrous consequences.
Qonde defended the university administrator’s decision to shut down all WSU campuses and send students home.
“The risk to safety of students and the prolonged nature of the strike has resulted in the university taking the decision to vacate the residences and send students home for a short term,” he said.
The closure led to protests by students, who clashed with police last Wednesday. At least a dozen students were injured in the confrontations.
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