National 6.9.2016 01:27 pm

Tracing UKZN student protest over past few days

Students protest at the UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus. Picture: Public Eye.

Students protest at the UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus. Picture: Public Eye.

UKZN students have embarked on protest action at a number of campuses despite management engaging with the student leadership to address the students’ grievances over fees.

Last night, the University of KwaZulu Natal’s (UKZN) Pietermaritzburg campus resembled a war zone after students erupted in protest, reports the Public Eye.

This in turn led to police and security tear-gassing and firing rubber bullets at students at a nearby shopping centre.

The area surrounding the campus was declared a no-go area while police and security tried to restore calm.

The students are protesting for a zero-percent increase in fees. This week’s protest follows last week’s burning of an exam centre.

Empty canisters and rubber bullets found in the rooms. Picture: Public Eye.

Empty canisters and rubber bullets found in the rooms. Picture: Public Eye.

As the drama unfolded, students at the various residences on the campus claimed they were innocently being shot at, while others urged their fellow students to continue with the protest.

Unconfirmed reports suggested that five firefighters were admitted to hospital during the evening for excessive smoke inhalation.

It is believed the students were burning vending machines and tyres across King Edward Avenue.

Police and security personnel maintain a strong presence.

On Sunday, September 4, the Highway Mail reported that the student protest action was under way at the university’s Edgewood and Westville campuses, and that there were reports on social media of black smoke rising from the Westville campus.

The website further reported that executive director of corporate relations Lesiba Seshoka released a statement on Saturday that stated that lectures would resume at all campuses at the university.

Some took to social media to reports black smoke was seen rising from the Westville campus.

On Tuesday, September 6, reports suggested six cars were torched last night at UKZN’s Westville campus and that 13 people were arrested at UKZN’s Howard College protests.

The statement released by  Seshoka on Saturday, as reported by Highway Mail, read that a number of students embarked on illegal protest action on the Howard College, Edgewood and Westville campuses on Saturday, September 3.

It said that about 400 protestors disrupted lectures and intimidated students at the Howard College campus, while police dispersed and stabilised a protest involving 200 students on the Edgewood campus. A small group of about 60 students marched through the Westville campus singing and chanting.

The statement said the UKZN management condemned the destruction of property and the threats and intimidation of both students and staff.

“We have obtained a high court order protecting the university against unlawful protests, disruptive gatherings, demonstrations, mass action, intimidation or any violent act to persons or property at the entrance and premises of UKZN campuses,” the statement read.

The university management said it received a memorandum from the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) last Friday and there was ongoing consultation with the student leadership to address the students’ grievances.

“Students are currently required to pay only about 10% as a tuition fee deposit; compared to universities of similar nature and size, which require at least 30% deposit; some of these institutions require that remaining fees be paid by March or April.

“The proposal is to now phase in a fee deposit increment of 10% per year, over the next two to three years. The proposed student fee deposit increase will be discussed with student leadership before any decisions are taken.”

Caxton News Service


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