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Chaos Erupts as Walter Sisulu University Students Detained Following NSFAS Protest



Chaos Erupts as Walter Sisulu University Students Detained Following NSFAS Protest

Chaos Erupts as Walter Sisulu University Students Detained Following NSFAS Protest. In a recent demonstration of discontent, students at Walter Sisulu University Potsdam campus found themselves in police custody after protesting changes to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). This tumultuous incident unfolded outside the East London campus, with law enforcement responding with teargas and rubber bullets.

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Arrests and Release

Approximately 90 students faced arrest on charges of public violence, spending the night in police holding cells at three different stations. However, by the following afternoon, these charges were withdrawn by the prosecutor at the East London Magistrate’s Court, leading to the students’ release.

NSFAS Payment System Sparks Protest

The root cause of the protest was the introduction of a new payment system by NSFAS, resulting in hundreds of students not receiving their meal allowances for the month of October. Sihle Mdingi, the SRC secretary at the Buffalo City campus, alleged that NSFAS had claimed the university had received sufficient funds to cover these allowances, a claim the university denied. Some students had received no allowances at all, while others received a meager amount of R850.

Read Also: Nsfas contact details – How to Contact NSFAS 2023-2024

Calls for Clarity and Protests

Amid the uncertainty surrounding this issue, GroundUp sought clarification from NSFAS. Additionally, a large group of students gathered outside the court on Wednesday while awaiting the fate of their peers. They called for the release of the detained students.

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Legal Resolution

During the court proceedings, Lawyer Mawande Magaleni of MO Magaleni Attorneys confirmed the withdrawal of charges after reviewing the case docket. However, the plight of the students remained a concern, with questions arising about their access to essential necessities like food.

Read Also: Which Colleges Are Funded By NSFAS?

Celebration and Concerns

As the released students left the court at 5 pm, their peers outside responded with applause, embraces, and tears of celebration. Nkululeko Tyatya, who had spent the night in jail and serves as the chairperson of the South African Students Congress (Sasco), spoke about the stress of the situation and the need to remain strong in advocating for their cause. Many of the detained students were first-year students, and a significant number were female.

University and NSFAS Response

Walter Sisulu University spokesperson, Yonela Tugwayo, maintained that the issue lay between the students and NSFAS, emphasizing that NSFAS forms agreements with students and service providers concerning their allowances. Tugwayo expressed confusion regarding the students’ accusations against the university. Notably, NSFAS had not responded to inquiries from GroundUp at the time of publication.

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