Defend Truth


Nehawu defends ‘inevitable disruptions’ during University of Pretoria workers’ strike

Nehawu defends ‘inevitable disruptions’ during University of Pretoria workers’ strike
A workers’ strike at the Hatfield campus of the University of Pretoria on 20 February 2024 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

In light of the Labour Court’s order preventing striking Nehawu members from disrupting activities at the University of Pretoria, trade union Nehawu says when 1,300 workers go on strike, disruptions are inevitable.

Disruptions at the University of Pretoria (UP), where striking workers clashed with police on Monday, are inevitable because of the university’s approach to the wage dispute, according to the National, Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).

“It is not possible for university activities not to be disrupted when over 1,300 workers have withdrawn their labour,” said Nehawu deputy general secretary December Mavuso.

“Their continued negotiation in bad faith is to blame for the disruption of activities at the university,” Mavuso said. 

Pretoria University strike

Students on the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield campus last month. Striking Nehawu workers reportedly blocked all entrances. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

Mavuso said Nehawu denied the university’s allegations that its members vandalised UP property.

“Such allegations have not been brought to us by the university. Should they be brought to our attention we will investigate and take appropriate action,” Mavuso said. 


Workers affiliated with Nehawu at UP have been on strike since 15 February 2024. They are demanding a 7% wage hike, but the university has offered a 4% wage increase.

The union has listed several demands that have to be met before it calls for an end to the strike, failing which the strike will intensify. The demands include a 7% salary increase across the board; a 13th cheque; five days’ leave encashment; an extension of long-service bonus to include not only those with 20 years’ service, but also 10 and 15 years; and a once-off R7,000 bonus.

Mavuso also responded to allegations that Nehawu members had left their designated picket area. He said only the police and not the university could make that determination.

“Workers choosing to walk on public roads is the domain of the police, not the university. The police were able to escort workers when they walked on the streets surrounding the university,” Mavuso said.


In a social media post on Thursday, 29 February, UP said: “Following the successful awarding of the court interdict, contact classes will resume on Monday, 4 March 2024, at our Hatfield Campus. We look forward to reconnecting and continuing our academic journey together.

“UP is committed to providing a seamless learning experience and ensuring the safety of our students and staff.”

Many new students have posted messages on the university’s social media platforms since the strike began, saying they are waiting to register. 

In light of the delays caused by the strike, the university has extended its registration deadline. 

“Please note that the registration deadline has been extended until Friday, 8 March,” it said. 

“I’m only a first-year student and I’m still at home,” Xoli Mzolo told Daily Maverick on Wednesday. 

Nkosinathi Maselana, an online student, said he was unaffected by the strike. 

“I’m an online student, and have the advantage of staying at home,” he said. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: University of Pretoria workers’ strike gives students a bitter taste of the reality of SA’s paradoxes

Nehawu said it would intensify the strike and launch a secondary strike. 

“We mobilised our entire 35,000 membership in Tshwane to join the strike in solidarity with University of Pretoria workers through a march next week,” Mavuso said. 

The union said that executives earned exorbitant salaries while many workers earned peanuts by comparison.

“It’s still an issue to this day. Executives gave themselves exorbitant bonuses last year,” Mavuso said.


On Wednesday, the university successfully obtained a court interdict against the striking workers in a move it said affirmed its commitment to the safety and security of the university community. 

“The court’s decision, which comes amidst ongoing labour unrest, imposes restrictions on activities that could disrupt the university’s operations. The interdict prohibits any unlawful interference with the university’s operations, activities, and academic programmes,” the university said.

“It further mandates a ban on any violent or unlawful conduct in pursuit of wage demands, including harassment, assault, prevention of services, interference with traffic and damage to property.” 

The university also said it was committed to resolving the labour dispute at the institution. 

“In light of recent developments, the university wishes to address the ongoing negotiations with Nehawu regarding proposed salary increases.

“Factors such as modest income growth (2.5% growth in its main source of revenue), high staff costs, high student debt and operational expenses have contributed to the decision to manage the salary bill.

“In the interest of responsible financial management, the university encourages Nehawu to collaborate closely with university management as they implement the Financial Sustainability Plan. This plan aims to reduce costs and explore revenue enhancement opportunities, ensuring the institution’s long-term financial stability,” UP said. 

Nehawu said after the court order: “We are more resolute and are continuing with our strike. Our members will continue with the strike and will do so within the confines of the picketing rules without breaching the court order.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Graeme J says:

    The axe I have to grind with all the unions is that the union representatives all get paid while the striking workers do not get paid. I am sure if the union representatives stopped getting paid during a strike the negotiations/strikes would be resolved a helluva lot faster.

  • J vN says:

    Students also have rights, such as to study in a safe environment, and to receive the lectures that they, their parents and us, the taxpayers, pay for. They are not, as these strikers seem to think, mere collateral damage.

    Along with overpopulation, this entitlement mentality and labour militancy are major contributors to SA’s economic problems and high levels of unemployment. What sane employer would not want to mechanize his factory and, as far as is possible, avoid employing the likes of these wêkkas?

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Back to work or go away…. I feel pretty sure the university is operating pretty well without them, so choices here.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Feeling powerless in politics?

Equip yourself with the tools you need for an informed decision this election. Get the Elections Toolbox with shareable party manifesto guide.