News24

Govt steps in on varsity issue

2009-11-09 20:34

Durban - The department of higher education on Monday intervened in ongoing tensions between two University of Zululand student organisations.

"We have engaged leaders of both students' organisations and the institution's authorities," said Gwebinkundla Qondi, special adviser to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

"We explained the importance of engaging constructively and avoiding violence," he said.

Students went on the rampage on Wednesday following an impasse on the outcome of the Student Representative Council.

Lecture hall set alight

A lecture hall was destroyed when it was set alight and a number of buildings were damaged by stones.

Inkatha Freedom Party-aligned South African Democratic Students' Organisation (Sadesmo) and the South African Students' Congress (Sasco) blame each for the disorder.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) declared Sasco the winner of the October elections after Sadesmo failed to submit its candidates list on time.

After Sadesmo sought legal advice, IEC chief electoral commissioner Pansy Tlakula sent a letter to rector Rachel Gumbi advising the university to declare the election null and void.

Qondi said tensions between Sadesmo and Sasco could have been avoided had the election procedures been clearly explained to them.

Sadesmo had claimed it was not aware its list would not be accepted at the time its was submitted.

"We have talked to student leaders and explained the importance of resolving issues amicably without resorting to violence. We are happy with the progress so far," said Qondi.

Not interrupting exams

His department had asked Sasco, Sadesmo leaders and university authorities to provide proper leadership.

"We have asked them to avoid provocations and to make sure the examinations are not interrupted. We will continue monitoring the situation."

Sadesmo secretary Xolani Ngwezi said the organisation was happy that the department had intervened.

"The situation is tense, but no incidents of violence have been reported in the past four days," he said.

Police spokesperson Inspector Mbongiseni Mdlalose said no-one had yet been charged for the vandalism.

"We are following up certain leads. One student was taken for questions and we believe we will make arrests soon."