Court rules against violence at varsity

2015-09-23 09:40

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Pietermaritzburg - A High Court interdict was confirmed on Tuesday preventing students at all University of KwaZulu-Natal campuses from embarking on violent protests.

This follows weeks of unrest involving stoning, torching and damage to buses, cars and buildings, and fears for the lives of UKZN staff and non-protesting students.

The protests led to lectures being cancelled ahead of the spring holidays.

The interdict was not opposed, and a final order was granted by Judge Mahendra Chetty.

He was told that the commissioner of police had agreed to abide by the court ruling, which contains a clause ordering the police to assist security and risk management staff at UKZN to ensure that the terms of the interdict were implemented.

The acting registrar of UKZN, Deogratius Jaganyl, said in an affidavit that police had not addressed the unrest “with the full force and attention it requires”.

He also said students had not been deterred by the presence of police, the university’s security services and Proforce Security.

The interdict prevents the student representative councils and all students from assaulting, intimidating, harming or harassing any person.

It also prevents students from “barricading, restricting or interfering” with access points to UKZN premises, organising, instigating or co-ordinating unlawful gatherings or mass action, or taking part in such activities.

The students were also ordered to follow prescribed regulations and procedures in place at UKZN in addressing any grievances, planned marches, rallies, protests or demonstrations.

Students started rioting earlier this month at Edgewood campus in Pinetown, and the violence subsequently spread to Howard College, and the Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses of UKZN. The damage caused to date, according to Weekend Witness, was estimated at around R30 million.

In his affidavit in support of an urgent interim interdict obtained on September 8, Jaganyl had said the initial grievances raised by protesting students at Edgewood had been over a lack of hot water, WiFi and security at residences.

His affidavit did not refer to any other grievances raised by students to date, dealing only with the violence at Edgewood, where the unrest started.

According to media reports, many students claimed to be unhappy about changes to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, the quality of student accommodation, and the scrapping of the Registration Appeals Committee process, which allows students on financial aid to enter into agreements with the university to pay off their debts while continuing their studies.

Jaganyl said students’ protests have been a common occurrence at UKZN’s campuses for the past number of years.

“The protests are generally in relation to the same issues and are often sparked by radicals among students and usually take place at the beginning of the academic year,” he said.

Jaganyl added that UKZN had also been forced to launch an urgent high court application on February 15 this year, as a result of similar unrest. Despite a court order having already been obtained on that occasion, students from the various campuses remained intent on proceeding with the current protests, he said, adding that UKZN had a duty to protect its staff and other students against protest action, intimidation and harm.

He said the university’s experience was that students who may not necessarily belong to the same student group often sympathised with protest action and joined in. Protests usually spread quickly to other campuses.

Read more on:    court  |  protest  |  ukzn

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