Maritzburg UKZN students on rampage over fees

2014-09-09 00:00

RAGING battles at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus between students and riot police intensified yesterday.

The protests are over a rumoured registration fee increase.

Police were forced to fire rubber bullets after students threw stones at them and members of Risk Management Services.

In the process one student was arrested and three others were injured and rushed to hospital, according to Students Representative Council (SRC) president Lungani Nhlenyama.

He insists management told them that the annual registration fee will rise over 100%, but the institution rubbished those claims last week.

Academic programmes were set to resume yesterday after being suspended for two days following violent protests on Thursday.

In the presence of The Witness angry students threw stones at a passing car and forced the driver to reverse away. They carried sticks and placards with statements such as; “F**k management, down with R9 000. This means war”.

The crowd, consisting of hundreds of students, continued tipping over rubbish bins before proceeding to the library lawn where they started burning tyres.

A fierce fight broke out when a student drenched the burning tyres with a fire extinguisher.

That fuelled the situation and the group turned on him but he kept them at bay by spraying them with the extinguisher.

The crowd then ran to the police chanting, “gun free country”.

They also threatened to storm the police station demanding that the arrested student be released.

Environmental science student Micaela Keddie said their lecture was disrupted and students in class were forced to get out.

“They came in banging the door and shouting at us. Our lecturer had to rescue us through the back door. I support the strike but it’s not properly done. It’s unfair to force us out of the class,” said Keddie.

Provincial police spokesperson Thulani Zwane disputed the SRC’s report that a student was arrested. He said no incidents had been reported.

Meanwhile, the Higher Education Department called on the management and student leadership to find a solution. “The ministry condemns in the strongest terms the criminal acts of damaging the university property,” said department spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana.

“No amount of anger and frustration can justify vandalising public property that belongs to the future generations of students.”

Last night UKZN spokesperson Convy Baloyi issued a statement saying the strike had ended. It was expected that normal university business would resume today unhindered.

He said this followed intense discussions between the SRC and management on issues raised by students. This included the issue of the registration fee. The outcome would be communicated later.

SRC secretary general, Vuyolwethu Zondo, too confirmed that the strike is at an end.

SECOND TEXT BOX:What the issues were according to the SRC:

* It is true that the university wants to raise the registration fee for tuition in 2015.

*It is true that SRC is totally against any form of fee increment.

* It is NOT true that tuition registration for 2015, is R 9000. The figures on the table from management are below R5000 but the SRC continues to reject them.

* The registration fee for residences does not form part of the discussions.

* Tuition fees do not form part of discussions.

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