UKZN students on warpath

2013-03-19 00:00

ABOUT 500 students of the University of KwaZulu-Natal went on the warpath yesterday, setting bins alight in another day of protests over accommodation.

Police responded with pepper spray and water cannons, forcing authorities to shut down the Howard College campus in Durban.

Some students were seen carrying sticks and hammers as they shouted “burn, burn, burn”.

The protest action follows weeks of upheaval after students were moved from the Renaissance residence in the Durban CBD a month ago.

Since then they have been moved from one building to another, with some spending nights on the streets and at the Downtown Hotel.

Students were promised a new permanent residence by Saturday, which never happened.

In the course of a month, the students were packed off to Coastlands, the Royal Hotel and Downside Lodge.

They are now living in the Impala Holiday Flats and The Pavilion Hotel.

But the students found the arrangement unsuitable and last week they launched a series of protests, even defying a court order.

Yesterday’s action was closely monitored by police and the university’s risk management services.

Students were first chased away with pepper spray, but they found their way back to the campus using entrances that were not manned by security.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said four students were arrested for contravening the court interdict and would appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court today.

A defiant Sandile Ngcobo, president of the students’ representative council on the Howard College campus, said they would shut down the institution until all the students were moved to a permanent location.

“The situation was mismanaged by student services and student housing, and we want heads to roll. We want the vice chancellor to attend to this.

“We are calling on him to discipline the student services division.”

Ngcobo alleged that the university had breached its own policies by entering into agreements with the hotels without ensuring that the places were safe.

Students claim that the hotels are overcrowded alleging that rooms in the hotels are housing six students.

“We are tired of holding endless meetings in boardrooms about this issue. It has also affected academic assessments as students are not settled.

“The hotels are also not conducive for studying and they are not safe,” added Ngcobo.

University spokesperson Nomonde Mbadi condemned the violence and insisted that the accommodation crisis was a “matter of high priority”.

In a circular to students, she said protestors on the campus had disrupted classes and vandalised property.

“We received reports that some of the protestors were armed with sticks and stones and some are carrying hammers,” said Mbadi.

“The university strongly condemns any act of violence, intimidation and damage to property.”

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