TRADE union National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) has vowed to intensify its strike at University of Zululand (Unizulu) until its demands are met despite a court interdict preventing pickets inside university premises.
While many universities across the country have been besieged by violent #FeesMustFall protests since mid-August Unizulu has been enduring a strike by hundreds of Nehawu workers who are demanding a wage increase, pay progression, insourcing, and the conversion of temporary staff to permanent, among other demands. The strike entered its ninth week on Monday and there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
Apart from the strike, Unzulu has in recent weeks been dodged by a controversial "degrees-for-sale" scandal. According to a Sunday Times report, more than 4,000 students allegedly paid for fake degrees over a period of 20 years and some lecturers were passing students in exchange for sex.
Last week nine vehicles belonging to the institution, including three buses, were torched by unknown people. Damage to property exceeded R5m.
On Tuesday afternoon Unizulu was given a court interdict by the High Court in Durban preventing Nehawu strikers from picketing inside the university premises.
Gcina Nhleko, spokesman for Unizulu, told Business Day on Wednesday afternoon that the situation was tense but calm.
"In the past few weeks we had witnessed serious damage to property. The damage is around R5m and still counting. We cannot allow this situation to persist any further, hence we approached the court. Interdict was issued to Nehawu staff members. On Friday last week another interdict was served to the SRC and students. Negotiations are underway to try and end the strike and the disruption of the academic programme," she said.
Nhleko added that Unizulu was still committed to find a lasting solution to the impasse, but it was totally against violence and intimidation of staff members who have decided not to join the strike.
Thulani Maphosa, a Nehawu spokesman in Unizulu, said the union was ready to strike until its demand were met. "The university has ordered all Nehawu members not to enter the premises. This tactic is adding more workers to the strike. On the side management have been telling our members that they must resign their Nehawu membership so that they can return to work. This is aimed at weakening our union and diluting our demands. It will not work because we will defeat it.
"There are huge differences between us and management during negotiations. Our members are prepared to intensify the strike until our main demands are met. We will not retreat or surrender," he said.