Gauteng is looking for solutions to student housing crisis, protestors told

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Chairperson of the EFFSC Wits branch Koketso Poho addresses marchers outside the office of the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements. Photo: Ntando Thukwana

Wits Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC), who led a student march to the offices of the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements and the City of Johannesburg municipality on Friday September 1 to protest against the accommodation crisis faced by students, said they were disappointed that MEC Paul Mashatile and Mayor Herman Mashaba were not available to personally receive their memorandum of demands.

“The MEC hasn’t been at work, he’s off sick. He’s not the kind of person that runs away,” Keith Khoza, of the department of Human Settlements, who received and signed the memorandum on behalf of Mashatile told the #AccommodationIsLand protestors. Khoza said that the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements was looking for solutions to the student accommodation problem.

“We have been talking to one of our entities called the Gauteng Partnership Fund to look at how we can work with universities in providing student accommodation because it’s at crisis level. Gauteng has more universities than any other province and it still attracts more people. So we have to find a solution,” said Khoza. “We will be engaging the city of Johannesburg to look at the buildings that are abandoned in Johannesburg to see how they can be converted to accommodation for people of Johannesburg,” he said.

Mashaba’s spokesperson, Simangaliso Shongwe, who received and signed the memorandum on behalf of the mayor, said, “I’ll just give the memo to the mayor and respond to grievances within 14 days.” Shongwe told Wits Vuvuzela that “issues of students are a genuine cause and we understand where they are coming from and the issues of accommodation. But having said that, the issues you know that are intergovernmental relations between national and provincial and local government, but we will look into that.

Secretary of the EFFSC Wits branch Oredireste Masebe said “The door opener and coffee maker of Herman Mashaba does not have any powers. It is a sign of arrogance that students after suffering from landlessness and homelessness must now come and be deprioritised by Herman Mashaba. He is not in Cape Town, he is in Joburg.
“We gave them ample time to prepare for our arrival there and their absence is not a coincidence. Their absence is intentional,” he said.

Sizwe Kekana, a third year Bcom logistics and management student at the University of Johannesburg said, “ For years students have been sleeping in libraries some have been sleeping in toilets, which affects their ability to study. “We’ve been in engagements with the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Witwatersrand and we are now here to submit the memorandum to the mayor of Johannesburg to show how agitating this issue is.”

“Paul Mashatile we know was not in his office, it is undermining us and we condemn that in the highest sense,” he said. Chairperson of the EFFSC Wits branch, Koketso Poho, addressing the crowd said, “Our demand is that accommodation is expensive; how they fix it we don’t care. We just want it to be cheap and affordable.”

Written by: Ntando Thukwana
Originally published: witsvuvuzela.com/2017/09/02/gauteng-is-looking-for-solutions-to-student-housing-crisis-protestors-told