On Wednesday night, protesting students burnt tyres on the streets and at the main gate of Alice Campus, set a tent alight, and looted and vandalised some buildings. The students claimed university management was failing to meet their demands to release grants for meal allowances.
Fort Hare spokesperson Athi Zembe said: “I cannot really comment about arrests, but we’ve been notified that 10 students were arrested. Nothing has been announced that plans have changed with regard to (the university’s) centenary proceedings, so all will go according to plan.”
Zembe added: “The issues are being taken care of. The police were deployed to calm the situation last night, and management is about to meet with student leadership”.
However, the university’s student representative council (SRC) on Thursday said its protest over funding issues had been hijacked by “criminal elements” who were trying to disrupt the institution’s centenary celebrations.
Fort Hare University is set to host its centenary celebration on Friday‚ with President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, an alumnus, in attendance.
The tent in which the celebrations were supposed to take place was among the property that was burnt down.
SRC president Bulali Rawana, speaking to SABC Morning Live on Thursday, said the student leadership was committed to finding amicable solutions without resorting to violence.
“As student leadership we do not support, in any way, damage to property as a means to finding solutions to our problems. We reject it in the strongest terms possible. It must never happen, it should not have happened,” Rawana said.
“But we are aware that there are also criminal elements who are hijacking the situation that we are having currently in the university.”
Rawana leads the ANC-aligned Sasco, which regained control of Fort Hare’s SRC from the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (Daso).
Daso also condemned the vandalism of property at the university, saying the violence would not help students facing a legitimate funding crisis.
Daso leader Yusuf Cassim in a statement said destruction of property would only make the situation worse, and take even more funds away from the university to repair the damage.
“This funding crisis, which has led to tensions flaring up, was a long time coming. Minister Blade Nzimande must be made to answer for the real mess in which Fort Hare finds itself today,” Cassim said.
Fort Hare admitted that funding for students had dried up, hence National Student Financial Aid Scheme agreements had not been signed, Cassim said.
“I had requested that UFH management be summoned to Parliament to explain its gross mismanagement last year. The ANC stopped this from happening, and have still not agreed. The minister has equally not taken any steps to address this corruption,” Cassim said.
Zembe said the university’s management were set to meet with student leadership on Thursday morning and that the centenary celebrations would proceed as planned.
– African News Agency (ANA)