Zuma slams campus chaos

2015-10-07 12:34
President Jacob Zuma (Jaco Marais, Die Burger)

President Jacob Zuma (Jaco Marais, Die Burger)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Pietermaritzburg - Protesting university students received a tongue lashing from President Jacob Zuma who ­condemned the sporadic outbursts of violence across the country, especially at UKZN.

But the students were not the only ones who were on the receiving end of the admonition — university management was also held responsible for the wave of violence at their campuses.

Speaking after a meeting between ministers and university heads from across the country, Zuma said he “strongly condemns” the violence and destruction of property that has taken place at universities over the past year, and most recently at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

In his speech, the president said that although government “recognises and supports” the rights of students to ­protest, the right should be “exercised with utmost responsibility, ensuring that the rights of other South Africans are not violated in the process”.

Those at the meeting agreed that all forms of disputes must be resolved through negotiation and when ­wanton acts of criminality take place, the law must take its course.

“Students protesting for the ­transformation of institutions must ­focus on dialogue and legitimate means of negotiation and protest to bring about change,” Zuma said.

While condemning the eruptions of violence by students, Zuma said ­university management must also be held accountable.

University management was asked to fill the void between themselves and their students by opening legitimate channels for discussion and dialogue to resolve whatever issues students raise.

“We believe that university ­management must be more proactive and not allow matters to deteriorate to such an extent that students go on the rampage,” Zuma said.

He said this was “often due to a lack of understanding and knowledge of the situation and spurred by poor communication”.

At the meeting, it was agreed that a task team would be established by the Presidency made up of officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training, the National Student ­Financial Aid Scheme, two university vice chancellors and two student ­representatives.

The team will seek to address the short-term student funding ­challenges, which are one of the ­reasons for the protests, and is due to make representations by the end of ­November this year.

Commenting on parties weighing in on student politics, but stopping short of mentioning any party names, the president moved away from asking ­parties to be held accountable for ­spurring violence and instead turned his attention onto the universities.

“It was also noted that some of the violence was linked to a climate of ­political intolerance that occurred ­during the elections for new student representative councils [SRCs],” ­Zuma said.

“Universities should exemplify how differences of opinion and ­disputes are resolved, and that it is through the exchange of ideas.”

South African Students ­Congress provincial spokesperson Phinda Mofokeng said yesterday that the government did not understand the problems students were ­experiencing and should reach out to the students at ground level instead of holding talks with the vice chancellors of universities.

“All the stakeholders should have been called for the meeting, not just the vice chancellors, as they cannot know our side of the story if they have not spoken to us,” Mofokeng said.

South African Democratic Students Movement (Sadesmo) KZN spokesperson Nonkululeko Nkwanyane said although their organisation strongly condemned student vandalism, it was time for government and universities to “stop talking among themselves and come to the students and listen”.

“The government is meeting with the chancellors who cannot speak for us because they cannot say the things that need to be said the way we need to say them.

“The government needs to come to us and to the students and talk with us instead of hearing our grievances from someone else’s mouth,” Nkwanyane said.

AMID the meeting held ­yesterday, the University of ­KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) confirmed that the ­protest action at their campuses is over.

“Following ongoing consultation between university management and student leadership, ­consensus has been reached on all of the concerns raised by students in their memorandum to university management,” said UKZN ­spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka.

“The parties have agreed that all of the short-term matters raised will be addressed ­immediately and that there will be ongoing consultation on all ­long-term matters raised,” he said.

Students were protesting about cancellation of Registration Appeals Committee (RAC) and funding issues.

The RAC process allows ­students owing university fees to enter into an agreement to pay their debts in instalments while continuing with their studies.

Although the university ­experienced disruptions of ­lectures in the past three weeks, Seshoka said he did not foresee their continuation.

“Student leadership agreed to communicate the consensus reached to the rest of the student body by the end today. This should ensure that there will be no more disruption to academic activities,” he said.

The UKZN said it would allow the law to take its course with ­regards to the students who were arrested.

The university agreed not to press internal charges against those who were involved in protest action

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  students  |  protest

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.