This is after a number of students supporting the MDC were stripped of scholarships from the office of the Zimbabwean president.
They claimed that agents acting for Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu- PF, including a lecturer, were responsible for death threats, intimidation and the loss of scholarships.
The intimidation, students say, intensified when MDC branches were launched at both the East London and Alice campuses last month.
MDC secretary-general at the Alice campus Vitalis Mubayira said 12 students have so far been cut from the Zimbabwean government Presidential Scholarship for being members of the MDC.
“We have been political victims since we made our position clear by supporting the MDC.
“There is not a single Zanu-PF aligned student that has lost their scholarship,” Mubayira said.
University spokesperson Minenzima Vusani denied that the scholarships were suspended because of students’ political affiliation.
He said the reason was that they had violated a clause which specifies that they should “not be involved in any political activity in a foreign country”.
He stressed that this condition applied to any political activism whether involving South African politics or not.
“This condition, among others, is a cornerstone of the programme since 1995. It has been emphasised to new and old students to maintain cohesion and oneness among beneficiaries and to protect the image and integrity of our institution,” Vusani said.
He pointed out that the Zimbabwean government was responsible for the termination of scholarships.
“They were given the scholarship by Zanu-PF under the name of Mugabe and recruited under the banner of Zanu-PF,” said Vusani.
The university also denied freezing student cards of those students who were in debt to the institution.
“They still remain students of the university, but they have to pay fees by themselves and they will be treated like any other student who owes the university,” Vusani added.
In a letter withdrawing the scholarship of Bachelor of Social Science student and known MDC supporter Tonderai Kunyaye, the executive director of the scholarship organisation in Zimbabwe, Chris Mushohwe, alleged that Kunyaye had made “hate, malicious and defamatory propaganda against President Robert Mugabe”.
Mubayira is adamant the suspensions of the scholarships are targeted at MDC supporters and that Dr Abyssinia Mushunje, a Zimbabwean lecturer in the university’s agriculture economics department, and others were behind these.
Asked for comment, Mushunje denied being involved.
“I do not have anything to do with scholarships ,” Mushunje said.
He also denied sending an e- mail to the mother of one of the students.
The e-mail from the lecturer, in the Dispatch’s possession, reads: “I know she is passionate about MDC just the same as I’m passionate about baba. Their permit is for them to study and not to come here and oppose their own gvts.
“ … let her know she is being watched.”
Students calling themselves the Disgruntled Zimbabwean Students at Fort Hare wrote to university vice-chancellor Dr Mvuyo Tom asking for help.
This followed the suspension of the scholarships of 10 students – six from the Alice campus and four from the East London campus – last month after the launch of MDC branches in September.
Police spokesperson Captain Ernest Sigobe confirmed that police were investigating a case of intimidation at the university.
Attempts to get hold of officials at the Zimbabwe Embassy in South Africa were not successful. Daily Dispatch