Watch: Tensions between striking Nehawu members and University of Pretoria management continue to grow

Tensions between striking Nehawu members and University of Pretoria management continue to grow.

Tensions between striking Nehawu members and University of Pretoria management continue to grow.

Published Feb 27, 2024


Tension between the University of Pretoria and striking Nehawu workers led to a shootout and injuries.

As many as three members were left injured on Monday afternoon following clashes between the police and striking workers as the strike action at the university dragged into the third week.

In videos which have since been circulating online, members of the police can be seen arguing with striking workers, up to a point where teargas and rubber bullets began flying, moments after members were heard saying ‘Just kill us’.

The strike action came after wage negotiations between the union and the university management deadlocked, as the university only offered workers a 4% increase, below the inflation rate.

Unions representing workers have expressed that the offer from the institution has left them feeling insulted due to the arrogance displayed by the university. The workers have made several demands, including a 7% salary increase, a 13th cheque, a once-off bonus, five days encashment, as well as a long-service cash award for members who have served with the university for 10, 15, and 20 years respectively.

However, the university has remained adamant that 4% was all they could offer to workers.

At the beginning of the strike, Rikus Delport, a spokesperson for the university, spoke to the media and explained that the higher education sector has been facing a lot of pressure. This is mainly due to the significant decline in government funding that institutions have been receiving. Additionally, the Higher Education Minister has placed a cap on tuition fees, which has further limited the universities' ability to increase their fees.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande proposed that South Africa’s 26 universities increase tuition and residence fees only by 4.5% and 6.5% respectively.

However, Delport explained that with the University of Pretoria, matters had been further exacerbated by the growing student debt which in their case was standing at more than half a billion.

As if that was not enough, he said as a result of the load-shedding crisis in the country, the institution had been forced to spend an excess of R80 million to keep their generators running, as this not only came off their budget but was also unplanned for.

Due to this, Delport said the university had embarked on a financial sustainability plan to make sure they kept costs under control and increased the revenue where they could, which they hoped all stakeholders would support.

With no end in sight, last week the university opted to seek a legal recourse and issued striking workers with a court order to ensure that they did not engage in certain activities that could disrupt the operations and safety of the university community.

These measures included restricting picketing activities to the demarcated area of the University’s Hatfield campus’ engineering gate, as agreed upon in the picketing rules, and nowhere else.

In addition, striking workers were prohibited from intimidating non-striking employees, replacement labour, or any other individuals, as well as obstructing vehicles or traffic entering or leaving the university premises.

The strike action is currently ongoing, with workers remaining undeterred in their demands.

The Star