The University of KwaZulu-Natal announced on Friday that it would place a moratorium on taking disciplinary action against students related to the recent protests that have erupted at the university.
The announcement made at the university’s Westville campus by the university’s vice chancellor, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, would have no impact on criminal proceedings against students charged by the police.
“The university agrees to put a moratorium on the disciplinary action against students that are related to protest actions and the violence on campus in order to implement a process for processing all alleged charges through a neutral and independent legal person agreed to by both parties,” he said.
He said the university had agreed to this measure after students claimed that the disciplinary process was biased because it was being run by the university management and that charges were being trumped up.
“Whilst the university would never participate in such activities, we have no objection to participating in an open and transparent process that is conducted with integrity,” he said.
The university has been rocked by protests during the past week over rumours that fees were set to go up by eight percent — although the university management has steadfastly maintained that no decision has been taken with regards to fees.
“The university is not and has not engaged in any process or discussions regarding the 2017 fee increment as yet. We still await guidance on the matter from national government,” said Van Jaarsveld.
During the past week the university’s Senate Chambers on its Westville Campus and the law library were set alight. Attempts were made to torch a residence containing disabled students on Tuesday night. Security responded quickly, dousing the blaze, but one student suffered from a seizure and an ambulance had to be called.
Lectures have been suspended and the university brought forward the September recess in a bid to bring calm to the institution.
The damage at the institution runs into millions and valuable manuscripts that cannot be replaced were lost in the law library blaze.
There were allegations that a student was raped by a police officer during protests at the university’s Pietermaritzburg campus.
However, both police and university management rejected this, with university spokesman Lesiba Seshoka saying on Friday that a case of sexual assault had been opened with police and that the incident had happened off campus.
Van Jaarsveld said that the university condemned all forms of violence against women.
Police earlier this week also said that no charges of rape were levelled against its members.
At least 51 students have been arrested during the protests, which have never seen more than 1000 people participating. The university spread over five campuses in Durban and Pietermaritzburg has 44,000 students.
– African News Agency (ANA)