A large contingent of police officers keep watch at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus yesterday, after protesting students clashed with officers and disrupted lectures.
Durban - Police are on high alert after hundreds of students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus went on a rampage on Monday, blockading university roads and threatening motorists during a protest over the condition of their “outside” residences.

About 300 students had taken part in the protest that shut down the campus. Several of them were arrested during the protest.

By midday, the situation had calmed and the students had dispersed but cars were still being turned away at the main entrance for fear that they might be attacked. The security officials alleged that the students had overturned about two cars during the riots.

Inside the campus, burning rubble, wood and overturned rubbish bins were still visible.

More than 50 police officers and members of the Metro Police, armed with riot and protective gear, were deployed to the scene. At least two riot vehicles and a Casspir were also deployed there.

Attempts to speak to Student Representative Council members about the protest were unsuccessful.

A student, who declined to be named, said the protest had been brewing since last week over off-campus accommodation.

“The students leading the protest are those living in residences off campus and some members of the SRC. The protest started brewing on Friday last week.

“They are upset with the condition of the residence. I live in one of the residences outside and for the past few days we did not have water, we complained, and this morning they started supplying us with cold water, hence I have been able to bath and come here. Before that, we were left without electricity for days,” he said.

“Another problem is that these residences have no wi-fi, that is despite the fact that when we moved in that was one of the items that we were promised and we are paying for, so these residences have huge problems,” he said.

Normah Zondo acting executive director: Corporate Relations at UKZN, said the academic programme, including all tests, had been suspended on the Westville campus last week.

“The suspension will allow university management to engage with student leadership and find amicable solutions,” she said.

By the afternoon, the university was still engaged in negotiations with students.

She said students have been arrested following violent protest action and the disruption of lectures on the campus.

“The suspension is for Westville only and the academic programme will resume by Tuesday.”

The university declined to speak on the issues the students complained about, saying it was up to the students to state them.

Police spokesperson Captain Captain Nqobile Gwala said: “About 300 students gathered at the UKZN Westville campus, where they threw stones at police officers.

“There are police vehicles that were damaged during the violent protest. A total of 17 students were arrested for public violence.

“They will appear in court soon,” she said.

The Mercury