PICS: UKZN cancels registration as students run amok on campus over fees debt
The UKZN students were joined by their counterparts at the University of South Africa’s (Unisa) Durban campus, who had similar demands on Monday.
Police and security guards fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the students, who were throwing rocks and broken bricks at the officers. Four students were arrested at the Howard College Campus. Another student pleaded that pictures and videos of his arrest not be shared on social media.
Mphathi Majola, campus chairperson of the EFF student command, said they were protesting against students being asked to pay 15% of the historical debt they owed. Majola said students did not have money to pay this and so could not register for degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate level. He said the protest was led by students.
While he was talking to the media, a flurry of rocks thrown by students nearly hit the student leaders.
Mnqobi Mhlezane, secretary of the Central Student Representative Council at UKZN, said they had been negotiating with the university management to resolve the matter. He said they were “disgusted and annoyed” that management had not been able to resolve the issues in time, as they had had discussions about the matter since December. In addition, he said, about 500 first-year students were still waiting for accommodation.
Mhlezane said the SRC had not declared the strike and students knew that protests should be conducted in an orderly fashion. He said the SRC did not condone violence and he still hoped they could come to some agreement with the university.
UKZN spokesperson Ashton Bodrick said the university had suspended Monday's registration and orientation programmes. He said the registration process would begin on Tuesday and the university would continue to assess the situation. Bodrick said they were committed to resolving the problems. “For both financial and academic reasons, a realisation of some of the students’ demands would not be feasible for the long-term viability of the university,” he said.
Bodrick said student debt at the institution stood at R1.7 billion and that the university required students to pay between R10 000 and R45 000 (per student) of their historical debt.
Andile Ndaba, secretary of the SRC at Unisa in KZN, said they wanted a cancellation of historical debt. He said they had been promised students who had registered would get laptops, but this had not materialised.
Ndaba said they were also responding to a call by the institution’s national SRC to ensure that all of the campuses around the country should be shut down.
Unisa spokesperson Siyabonga Seme said the institution’s management “was on the ground” and had been trying to engage student leadership, but staff at the institution were on strike and it was going to be difficult to deal with complaints.
Student Sabelo Nxumalo said he had pre-registered more than two weeks ago, but there had been no progress with his registration, while other students had been registered in two days. Nxumalo said this meant he would get study material late and put him under pressure to finish his assignments. He believed that the protest could help to resolve the issue.