University counts high cost of demonstration damage

NMMU facilities have suffered severe damage in this week’s protests Picture: Fredlin Adriaan
NMMU facilities have suffered severe damage in this week’s protests
Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

After nearly a week of unrest, NMMU’s south and north campuses have been left resembling war zones and the university, which is counting the costs, says the damage could run into millions of rands.

There have been a number of unexplained incidents on campus in a week which saw protesting students clashing with police and disruptions to attempts to resume classes after a month-long closure in the wake of the nationwide #FeesMustFall demonstrations.

The most recent damage at NMMU included the campus cricket boma near the university’s athletics track, which was gutted by a fire on Thursday night.

The fire – the cause of which is unknown – started at about 10pm and left nothing but a few walls standing among the rubble and remains of desks and chairs that had been stored inside the building.

Damage in total is estimated at R6.7-million.

NMMU spokeswoman Zandile Mbabela said the university was still assessing the full extent of the damage to property from this week’s protest action, and added that the damage to the cricket boma alone was in the region of R3-million.

“The large hall at the campus boma was gutted in the fire.

“The smaller hall suffered smoke damage and will require some work. “The cause of the fire is unclear and the matter is under police investigation,” Mbabela said.

The two halls were used for various university activities and also served as a stream of income as they were also hired out to the public.

Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidoo said a case of arson was being investigated.

In the meantime, student leaders have called for calm at NMMU campuses after 31 students who were arrested during the week’s protest action, were released on bail at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

Speaking outside the court, Thanduxolo Nkala, one of the students facing charges of public violence and malicious damage to property, told a crowd of students that further damage to property would be to their detriment.

“We cannot agree with this war zone that is happening on our campus. Burning buildings will not give us free education. All it means is that when we do get free education, we will be left without a clubhouse, without lecture halls, without a library,” Nkala said.

Magistrate Tandeka Mashiyi granted the students bail of R100 each, and said the court order – obtained by NMMU last week – prohibiting protesters from intimidating other students and preventing them from attending lectures, was still in effect.

Despite Nkala’s calls, protesting students took to social media, vowing they would return to campus on Monday.

However, yesterday the north and south campuses were quiet after the # FeesMust- Fall movement shared on its Facebook page that it was observing a moment of silence for the two women who were raped at an off-campus location on Wednesday.

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