Durban — The eThekwini Fire Department arrived at the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) on Thursday to find fridges strewn across the road and on fire, blocking the main entrance after protesting students damaged and torched some of the institution’s property.
This was according to division commander Justin Bateman, who attended the scene. He said they arrived just after 5am and found the front entrance blocked with burning debris.
“We stood off until SAPS from Umlazi and Public Order Policing arrived to assess the situation and give us support. Shortly thereafter we were approached by security; everything was in the clear and we moved in.”
He said they went to the scene with two rescue pumps, a water carrier and a vehicle.
“We extinguished the fire at the gate. Subsequently, there was a gatehouse that was burnt down, that (fire) was extinguished as well and also two cars that were set alight were also extinguished. There were no injuries. We were not able to ascertain the reason for the blaze, we couldn’t ascertain who the culprits could be at this time,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Constable Thenjiswa Ngcobo said it was alleged that students overpowered the security guards and torched the security guardhouse, two offices and two vehicles.
“No injuries have been reported. Charges of malicious damage to property and arson will be opened at the Umlazi police station for investigation. Police are monitoring the situation,” Ngcobo said.
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 the volatile situation.
“The EMC has not received communication from the Student Representative Council (SRC) with demands or anything that could explain the reasons behind the destruction,” Hlophe said.
He said it was alleged that 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,” Hlophe said.
He said the protesting group was carrying five litres of sanitiser, which they used to start the fires.
Attempts to contact the MUT SRC were unsuccessful.