DURBAN - Students in Durban and Cape Town on Wednesday blocked entrances to institutions, while vehicles were also torched this week.
Scenes of chaos played out at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College campus as students clashed with private security. The university’s private security fired rubber bullets at students, while streets leading up to the university’s main gate were blocked with rocks and burning materials.
An SRC member, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, said the university was not responding to pleas and would not let students register their complaints directly to the administration teams.
“Student representatives have a number of demands for the university, but most of all, we want the university to postpone the closure of registration. It has been over a month since online registration was started, yet not even 50% of students have been registered,” said the SRC member.
“There are first-year students who received firm offers last year, but are still not able to register. Add to that the closure of 10 residences. University management has not approved new residences, which could result in more than 1 000 students being homeless.
“Essentially, what led to the clash between students and security was they would not let us on to the school premises. Working from inside the campus makes it easier for us to help students get access to the administrative stuff, but security denied us the right, then the shooting started,” said the SRC member.
According to the university, a vehicle from the Pietermaritzburg Campus was pelted with stones while individuals manhandled a staff member who was driving the vehicle.
UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo said the institution condemned all acts of violence, intimidation and destruction of property.
“University management will continue to engage with the legitimate Student Representative Council to find an amicable solution to the challenges facing students.”
After four unidentified vehicles parked at the Durban University of Technology’s S-Block parking basement on the Steve Biko campus were set alight on Tuesday, the institution temporarily closed three of its Durban campuses.
It is alleged that a group of members from a political student organisation forced entry via Gate 2 on the Steve Biko campus, then divided themselves into two groups and set alight vehicles alleged to belong to DUT staff members.
Lieutenant-Colonel Nqobile Gwala said the vehicles were partially burnt, adding that a case of malicious damage to property was being investigated by the Berea police station.
She said the university’s security were alerted. However, no one was found.
DUT Protection Services personnel, Durban Metro Police, Berea SAPS and the Public Order Policing unit were called to the scene and assisted in extinguishing the fire.
“Due to the eruption of violence, intimidation and arson, the university’s management decided to request all staff to evacuate the Steve Biko premises and temporarily close it. For the safety of staff and students, physical access to the three campuses is not allowed until further notice,” the statement reads.
IOL reported that at the University of Cape Town, approximately 200 students were protesting, blocking three roads and campus entrances. The SRC said the university did not fulfil its promise of ensuring all students were registered by Monday.
SRC acting president Siya Plaatjie said as the student leadership they were baffled by the vice-chancellor's desk, which painted their efforts to fight for students excluded by the system as regressive.
“They made us promise not to shut down campus, and that all students would be registered on time for the start of the academic year,” she said.
After news of the shutdown surfaced on Wednesday morning, some students were left disappointed after being turned away at lecture halls.
UCT's vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, released a statement on Twitter stating that it was disappointing that the SRC has chosen to interfere with access control and the UCT shuttle service, disrupting some aspects of the academic programme.
“Over the past few days, we have been in continual communication with the SRC, providing them with updates on progress in completing the registration process for the new academic year,” she said.
She further stated that they had explained that there would be delays in completing registration.
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said the police would continued to monitor the situation.