Varsity campuses closed after violent protests

TORCHING AFTERMATH: The damaged Risk Management Services building and burnt cars at the UKZNWestville campus  Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN
TORCHING AFTERMATH: The damaged Risk Management Services building and burnt cars at the UKZNWestville campus

Rolling battles between students and police at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) have forced management to close the institution earlier for the September recess.

Millions of rands in damages have been caused by violent student protests at three of UKZN’s five campuses since last week.

Thirty-eight students have been arrested.

UKZN corporate relations executive director Lesiba Seshoka said they had suspended the academic programme to allow all parties space to engage and try to resolve the current impasse.

The university would remain closed until September 20.

On Monday night, the senate building at the university’s Westville campus, and vehicles parked outside the Risk Management Services office were torched. At the Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses, furniture was burnt and security officers stoned.

Protests continued yesterday at the Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses.

Five women were treated by paramedics for injuries caused by teargas and rubber bullets yesterday afternoon after protests in Pietermaritzburg.

Students are demanding, among 72 grievances and demands, no registration and residence fee increases next year an end to academic fee increase negotiations and that students with outstanding fees be allowed to view their results.

Student leaders did not respond to queries.

A student has described how she was caught up in the clash between protesters and authorities at the Howard campus yesterday afternoon.

Sporting bruises on her elbow‚ Michelle Mchunu‚ 20‚ a second-year music student‚ said security had chased her and other students to bushes and hit them with batons.

She said her elbows had been injured when she covered her face to protect herself.

The pungent smell and sting of teargas filled the air at the campus yesterday afternoon as public order police clashed with protesters.

Police fired teargas and shot rubber bullets at students‚ who fled to safety as protesters left a trail of destruction on the campus.

One woman‚ Bongeka Mntaka‚ was shot in the left knee and was carried off by fellow students‚ sparking rumours that police were using live ammunition.

Police on the scene‚ however‚ denied they were using live shots.

Students said they had been yanked out of the Pius Langa residences and shot at while others hung out from the residence windows taunting police to come and get them.

Students said they were protesting about a proposed 8% fee increase.

Meanwhile, at the Westville campus‚ where there were also clashes earlier yesterday‚ students seated outside the cafeteria said they were angered by the presence of police.

“When students are being raped‚ assaulted and robbed‚ where is the police then? They don’t come‚ yet as soon as they hear of student protests or when students are crying for fees to fall‚ police arrive.

“Students were shot at while getting out of the bus‚” they said.

Another said they had been in their chemistry class when they heard a loud bang.

“We had no idea what was happening. We were asked to leave the lecture room‚” she said.

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