Durban — Destructive protests at the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) have forced the university to suspend all lectures and exams scheduled for Thursday.
Early in the morning, pictures and videos emerged on social media of what appeared to be the university and the property on the university campus alight.
MUT spokesperson Bheki Hlophe said the violent student protest endangered the lives of staff and led to the destruction of university property.
Hlophe said the executive management committee (EMC) of MUT took the decision to cancel activities on campus to protect staff, students and university property amid this volatile situation.
“The EMC has not received communication from the Student Representative Council (SRC) with demands or anything that could explain the reasons behind this morning’s destruction,” Hlophe said.
He said that while the university tried to piece together what happened this is how the incident unfolded:
- A group of about 30 students, some with their faces covered, started pelting security personnel at the main entrance with stones.
- Security personnel who were in the guardroom when the incident started could not go out in fear of being struck by the stones.
- The protesting group proceeded to burn the guardhouse with security personnel inside.
- Security personnel managed to escape the guardhouse and left through the main entrance.
- The protesting group proceeded to burn two university vehicles and caused destruction to several other university assets.
- The protesting group was carrying 5 litres of sanitiser, which they used to start the fire.
- So far, the list of damaged assets includes:
- The windows at the Academic Affairs Offices (known as “Steps”) have been broken.
- Examination Office was pelleted by stones.
- Senate Chambers was pelleted by stones.
- Two university cars burnt to ashes.
- Refrigerators were burnt.
- Mobile toilets, which the university provided considering the water shortages, were also burnt.
Hlophe said that the university has opened a case with the SAPS in uMlazi township and expects the perpetrators to be brought to book. “Bringing the perpetrators of such illegal acts to the book does not mean that MUT is trying to stifle protest within the university. Instead, the university supports the constitutional right to protest when such right is exercised within the confines of the law and in a manner that does not infringe on the rights of others.”
“It is unfortunate that this morning’s incident infringed on the rights of those students who were scheduled to write their exam, threatened the lives of security personnel, damaged university property and infringed on the freedom of movement,” Hlophe said.
“We sympathise with all those affected and encourage those who embark on a protest to also give dialogue and engagement a chance. Universities are spaces where ideas are debated, and issues are resolved through dialogue. Violence and acts of criminality have no place at a university. MUT is always open to engaging with the SRC on any student issues as part of its commitment to the well-being of its students.”
Police spokesperson Constable Thenjiswa Ngcobo said: “It is alleged that todoay at 5.30am, a group of about 15 students proceeded to Mangosuthu University of Technology where they overpowered the security guards and torched the security guard house, two offices and two vehicles. No injuries have been reported.
“Charges of malicious damage to property and arson will be opened at Umlazi police station for investigation. Police are monitoring the situation.”