Statement on student protest action – 6 May 2024

Students at Sol Plaatje University embarked upon protest action this morning against the new, fully outsourced catering model which came into effect on 15 April 2024. The protest which began peacefully, became violent and the SAPS had to intervene.

Staff and students of Sol Plaatje University are advised that the academic programme will take place online until further notice. Support staff who can work from home, in consultation with their line manager, should do so.

Background to the protest action

Following two years of planning and internal consultations, which included successive SRCs, the Council of Sol Plaatje University, in November 2023, approved the move to a fully outsourced catering model by April 2024.  This decision was taken in line with the University’s approach to financial sustainability since the cost of providing catering to students was more than the University was allowed to charge students for the service.

This catering model entails that the University’s dining halls be converted to retail outlets that are operated by outsourced service providers so that students had a greater variety of catering options.

The current SRC petitioned the University Council on 26 April 2024 to reconsider the transition to a fully outsourced catering model.  They proposed that the University subsidizes two meals for residence students who are receiving a monthly allowance which would allow them to have three meals a day at the cafeteria. They also requested that the University fully assists unfunded residence students with three meals a day at the cafeteria. Council deliberated on the proposal and then requested that the University Management costs it. The Finance Committee of Council (FINCO) would then analyse the information and make a recommendation to Council for a final decision. 

The SRC, who are leading the current protest, have been part of the Council discussions and are aware of the processes proposed at the Special Council Meeting held on 26 April 2024.  There was no logical basis for the protest action today in which protesting students handed over a memorandum of demands, the content of which is the same as their proposal to Council.

FINCO is meeting this evening to discuss its recommendation to Council.

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