UKZN riots hit a new low as protesters fling faeces

2016-09-27 09:41
The entrance to the William O'Brien residence at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's (UKZN) Pietermaritzburg campus was yesterday set alight - the fire gutted the turnstile and the communal room alongside the entrance.

The entrance to the William O'Brien residence at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's (UKZN) Pietermaritzburg campus was yesterday set alight - the fire gutted the turnstile and the communal room alongside the entrance. (Amil Umraw)

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WATCH: #FeesMustFall protests at DUT and UKZN

2016-09-26 12:32

Watch as DUT students demonstrate, bringing city traffic to a standstill on Monday morning.WATCH

Pietermaritzburg - The FeesMustFall campaign sank to a new low on Monday when protesters flung faeces at a lecture venue on the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus.

Early on Monday morning, reports were sent to university security management that protesting students were seen throwing faeces in the Commerce block.

In October last year, when the FeesMustFall campaign first started nationwide, two students were arrested in the same area while carrying a large bag full of faeces.

At about the same time as the faeces was being flung, a fire was started at the entrance to the William O’Brien (WOB) residence on the main campus.

The fire, which was targeted at the turnstile, soon blazed out of control, gutting the ceiling and the communal room alongside the entrance.

The fire damaged electronics in the communal room, including a television set and a WiFi router — which sparked widespread student outrage.

One student said he there was no longer any Internet connection in the area of the residential block where he lives. “Now there is no data. How are we supposed to download our notes for exams?” he asked.

Firefighters were quick to extinguish the flames, but most of the damage had already been done.

There were also reports that students had tampered with the air-conditioners in the Law block on Sunday night. Reports were that the fans had been rigged with a gas concoction that would release into the lecture venues when the air-conditioners were turned on.

One student took to Facebook to confess. “The air-conditioners at Law School, C12, NAB [New Arts Building], A1 and R.Mac [Ronald MacMillan] have been tampered with some sort of pepper spray chemical please advise your lecturer not to open them please [sic],” the student wrote, apologising and saying that guilt had gotten the better of him.

Campus security said the air-conditioning had been tampered with, but there was no evidence of a gas.

Yesterday afternoon, university security raided the WOB residence for evidence concerning the burning of the entrance.

One student was arrested after he was found in possession of marijuana — much to the dismay of fellow students who argued with police before the student was carted off.

In an interview with the media yesterday, South African Students Congress (Sasco) leader Star Radebe said the Student Representative Council (SRC) condemned any and all forms of violence and had taken a stance to defend university property.

“Once we have free education, we will need this property … Students are not divided; we are united under one banner of Fees Must Fall,” Radebe said.

Dodging questions about the stoning of vehicles last week, Radebe said the violence students exhibit was instigated by the police and campus security.

“The police are used to silencing the students, influencing magistrates and controlling the courts. Police and security only understand violence,” he said.

Radebe called on the university management to address the students.

“Why is the university quiet? We are lacking leadership from them,” he said.

The fees campaign yesterday also spread to other campuses in the province, with activists disturbing lectures and torching vehicles.

Students at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), which opened for the fourth term yesterday, also entered classes and forced fellow students to leave.

DUT suspended its academic programme as its Midlands SRC remained adamant that their protest action would continue until their demands were met.

The protest came barely a day after interim vice chancellor Dr John Volmink had written to staff, students and alumni, raising concerns about the protests at other universities.

“This is clearly very concerning and I know that you and your families must be equally worried about what the next few weeks will bring,” he wrote.

Midlands SRC member Yoliswa Manele said protests would continue on Tuesday.

“We will not go back to class until our demands are met. On Wednesday we are meeting with the management, Department of Higher Education and Training, and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) officials to discuss the students’ funding problems. After the meeting we will consult with the students on the way forward.

“About 400 students who meet NSFAS requirements but have not secured funding, are facing exclusion. No one between the management and NSFAS wants to take responsibility,” she said.

Manele said the students were disappointed by Minister Blade Nzimande’s exemption of only NSFAS-qualifying students and the so-called missing middle from the 2017 fee increments.

“That is dividing students. We cannot hide from the fact that the time for free education is now,” she said.

DUT spokesperson Alan Khan said lectures would resume on Tuesday.

At the University of Zululand, six vehicles, including three buses, were torched during the early hours of Monday morning.

A staff member said damage was expected to run into several million rands, with the vehicles completely gutted.

Universities South Africa (USAf) said in a statement yesterday that damage sustained by the tertiary education sector last year due to student protests is estimated to have now exceeded the R600 million mark.

Read more on:    ukzn  |  pietermaritzburg  |  university fees  |  university protests

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