UKZN removes 2 000 ‘professional students’
In a statement on Thursday, vice-chancellor Nana Poku said the group had been holding the university ransom through unrest for personal concessions.
Poku’s statement came just hours after the exam and lecture building at UKZN’s Edgewood Campus in Pinetown was set alight.
He said the university was outraged at the incident and would do all in its power to bring the perpetrators to book.
“The premier of KZN, Sihle Zikalala, has offered to assist us with a specialist forensic team and additional police and investigative resources to root out the parasitic criminal elements within our midst,” said Poku.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said a case of arson had been opened at Pinetown police station.
Poku said it was shocking that the incident took place after weeks of “careful and honest negotiations between management and student leadership in a bid to restore normality to the institution”.
“We recognise that this cowardly attack on the infrastructure of the university is intended to intimidate us and make us lose our resolve and to deflect us from initiating sweeping reforms that will ensure the institution’s sustainability and heighten its national and international standing,” he said.
Poku said various departments and functions were under intense fiscal scrutiny and review for their fitness for purpose and performance, especially the student residences and transport.
“Our resolve is undiminished in the face of this appalling provocation. The actions of the perpetrators can never be justified against the ideals of this university.
“We will continue the vital work of ensuring that the life of the university, the safety of our students and staff and the quality of the work we do will continue to go from strength to strength,” said Poku.
The UKZN student leadership distanced itself from the act of setting the buildings alight.
The student representative council (SRC) said that there had been no protest demonstrations during the day and called for the speedy arrest of culprits.
SRC secretary-general Mnqobi Msezane said they were shocked at the incident. He said they were still trying to engage with university management to clear students who had not registered by last Friday’s deadline. Only about 10% of students had not yet been cleared of historical debt across all five campuses, he said.
“As the SRC, we know nothing about the incident. I was called to the scene and was very shocked when I saw the venue in flames. This is a regrettable incident and is going to negatively affect our engagements,” said Msezane.
He added the impact was going to be felt as they were still trying to seek more funding.
Msezane called for an urgent investigation into the fire.