On Sunday, 6 November 2016, an agreement was reached between the students part of the Shackville and #FeesMustFall movements and the Executive of the University of Cape Town.
This agreement is aimed at establishing a way forward to complete what is left of the 2016 academic year as well as the coming examinations in January 2016.
The discussions that took placed ranged from the use of private security companies to the formation of the Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC) which may possibly grant certain students a form of amnesty for their actions the past year.
Some of the highlights of the agreement include that the University of Cape Town Executive agrees and supports the calls for free education in principle and will engage with the respective government bodies and representatives to discuss government funding for tertiary education. Furthermore, the agreement grants a form of clemency (leniency) for students who are due to appear before disciplinary bodies, and it also places a moratorium on future disciplinary actions regarding the protests. The agreement states that an IRTC is to be established as soon as possible and that a commission is tasked to create protocol regarding the use of private security companies on campus.
Students at UCT may also choose to take their exams in January rather than November, according to the agreement. Arrangements for students with regards to residences, food and transport will also be made.
The agreement is seen as a compromise between the University and protesting students. It remains strange that the resumption of normal academic activities is considered a ‘compromise’ in a democratic society.
It is, however, ironic that members of the Shackville and #FeesMustFall movements now state that their tactics need to be reevaluated and reconsidered. It seems that finally, some members of these movements have come to the realisation that trying to achieve free tertiary education through the means of violent disruptions and malicious damage to property, is not the way forward.
Although this agreement, in principle, highlights the problematic nature of the protests of the past years, many students and, indeed, South Africans will breathe a sigh of relief that academic activities are able to resume.