UKZN on edge over fees

2016-09-06 09:38
UKZN campus security form a wall to prevent protesting students from entering the Golf Rad campus.

UKZN campus security form a wall to prevent protesting students from entering the Golf Rad campus. (Sabelo Nsele)

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The Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal remained under siege on Monday night as varsities wait with bated breath for Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s big announcement on fee increases for 2017.

Student protests at the Pietermaritzburg campus and Howard College in Durban reached a boiling point as students clashed with campus security and police in running skirmishes the entire day. The Pietermaritzburg campus resembled a war zone as Public Order police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets at the protesting students who, in retaliation, pelted campus security personnel and police with stones.

The campus residences remained battle grounds as students gathered in separate groups, throwing everything they had at police.

Roads around the campus were closed by the police after reports that the students were stoning cars.

The university confirmed that some lectures had been disrupted at the two campuses, while the Msunduzi Fire Department reported that firemen had been called in to extinguish fires at the campus as students burned rubbish and appliances such as fridges. However, no building had been set alight by the time of going to press on Monday night. Last week, the William O’Brien exam venue was set alight and extensively damaged.

Students also blocked roads with rubbish and burning tyres on Monday.

The university said damage had been caused to property at Howard College by the protesting students, who also stoned vehicles there.

University spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said a number of students were arrested for causing a public disturbance and for engaging in acts of destruction.

“The University Risk Management Services, South African Police Service and Public Order Policing managed to disperse the crowds and are continuing to monitor the campuses.

“UKZN has a high court interdict in place, protecting the university against unlawful protests, disruptive gatherings, demonstrations, mass action, intimidation or any violent act against persons or property at the entrance and premises of university campuses.

“Security has been beefed up on all campuses and every effort is being made to ensure that the academic programme proceeds as scheduled with no further interruptions,” he said.

Seshoka said some of the issues raised by the student leadership fell within the jurisdiction of the UKZN Council.

“The chair of council has advised the SRC that an opportunity will be afforded to a delegation of the SRC to table their matters at a council meeting scheduled for the 19th of September.

“Students are urged to follow established protocols and raise any issue of concern with their respective SRC representatives. The university is committed to engaging with students to address their grievances,” he said.

Attempts to get comment from the SRC and SA Students’ Congress (Sasco) were unsuccessful by the time of going to print. Pietermaritzburg campus SRC president Siphelele Nguse and Sasco provincial secretary Mqondisi Duma did not answer their phones.

Following about four weeks of student protests at UKZN, which at one stage led to a two-week suspension of the academic programme, the call for another zero percent fee increment is gaining momentum at the university.

Students have said they will not entertain any increase in fees.

Nzimande is expected to make an announcement regarding the 2017 university fees on Thursday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn protests

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