UKZN comes to standstill

2012-08-22 00:00

LECTURES and tests were disrupted, the library closed and a lecturer found himself drenched after protesters threw water at him during a protest at UKZN Pietermaritzburg Campus yesterday.

Scores of protesting students said “serious challenges” with the university’s management forced them to declare a “non-academic day”.

A tyre was burned and quickly extinguished by security personnel.

ANC flags with President Jacob Zuma’s face and placards were raised in the air as struggle songs were chanted.

University staff watched with amazement at what was unfolding before their eyes.

Police with guns stood by on high alert.

At one stage, a leader of the march, Young Communist League branch secretary, Isaac Luthuli, popped champagne while surrounded by his followers.

A group of protesters invaded a first year geography lecture and kicked out students during a lesson.

They threw water at Professor Trevor Hill, whose cable from his laptop was also stolen.

Fearful students from his class moved to the front of the room to be sheltered by the professor, while others just left.

“There’ll be no vandalism whatsoever. But I’m humbly requesting students to walk out of this lecture because apparently we’ve reached consensus with the management of the university that any exercise of academia must be stopped.

“We’d like to apologise to these lecturers because this information has not arrived at them,” Luthuli said while standing on top of a desk.

“They [protesters] walked in and started dancing on top of the desk. They were all chanting and I got pretty scared,” said Kegan Tasker, a geography student.

The professor and some students who stayed behind reconvened their lesson in another lecture room.

A third year Bachelor of Social Sciences student, Arhana Mohanlal, said: “They came into a lecture, shouting, and chased everyone out. One had a wooden pole. I was so scared as they all started chanting at the same time.”

Non-striking students had their programmes thorougly disrupted.

A list of issues were tabled by the SRC, which included their not being allocated a budget for this year’s academic year, poor facilities at the off-campus accommodations, and lack of proper security on the university premises.

Sakhile Hadebe, an ANCYL branch secretary, described their off-campus residences as “small hells”.

Most students said they have to live without electricity or hot water for days.

They also complained about not having microwaves, stoves and washing machines.

In some study rooms there are no desks or chairs, they told The Witness.

Students said there are too few buses for all the students living in three off-campus residences, and most of the time these buses are overloaded.

The SRC has called for the executive director of student services, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, and the financial aid adviser, Busi Dlamini, to resign for “failing” students.

Chalufu, who signed a memorandum, said they are committed to dealing with the issues.

“Some of the issues have been dealt with, truth be told. But anyway, we’ll discuss these at the boardroom. The issues that are there are not unsolvable,” he added.

By the time of going to press, the SRC and the university management were still locked in a meeting discussing the issues raised by the protesting students.


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