Durban – The University of KwaZulu Natal said despite “unfortunate” crime incidents on its campuses and at residences in recent weeks, classes have not been suspended.
The institution released a statement on Monday morning, to “address any misconceptions”.
Normah Zondo, UKZN’s executive director of corporate relations, said: “These events have led to a misrepresentation of the university's image in the media and misleading information being spread among the public. As a result, the university wants to provide accurate information.”
UKZN said none of its classes had been suspended although they it was aware of attempts to disrupt lectures and other activities by people seeking to destabilise the institution.
“However, UKZN is committed to ensuring that all academic processes continue undisrupted and that teaching and learning proceed as usual.”
Speaking about the crime incidents, Zondo said in the early hours of April 14, students were robbed at the EG Malherbe Main Library on the Howard College campus.
“Three unknown males entered the library and robbed five students of their belongings, including three laptops and five cellphones.”
She said another robbery took place at a UKZN residence on April 7.
“On April 20, the SAPS arrested two suspects in connection with the robbery who were expected to appear in court the next day.
“The university welcomes the arrest and commends the police for their swift action.”
Zondo said UKZN would continue to co-operate with law enforcement agencies to ensure that those responsible for criminal activities on campus were arrested.
She said UKZN was investigating the circumstances surrounding these incidents.
“This is including allegations that some staff members may have enabled or abetted the crimes.
“The library robbery happened soon after the suspension of approximately 10 staff members belonging to the Risk Management Services (RMS) division,” Zondo said.
“UKZN is committed to purging all divisions of criminal elements.”
Zondo heaped praise on other staff at RMS who traced a suspect believed to have stolen two laptops from students at an off-campus residence.
“The laptops have since been recovered and returned to their rightful owners.”
In response to these incidents, the university was boosting security on campus and in residences.
“Contrary to reports suggesting that the university will not hire any RMS personnel due to financial constraints, the institution is actively taking steps to strengthen its security measures. In fact, the university is in the process of hiring 20 new RMS staff members and has plans to bring on board an additional 20 in the coming months.
“During a meeting held with the SRC last Tuesday, university management emphasised that, although UKZN's security budget allocation is already higher than the ideal amount, the institution remains committed to optimising the efficiency of its current security measures, services, and operating procedures.
“It is, therefore, perplexing as to why some students claim that the university has refused to tighten security. In reality, various measures and proposals were discussed at the meeting with student leaders, demonstrating the institution's dedication to ensuring a safe and secure environment for all.”
Apart from patrols, Zondo said strategic campus areas were monitored by CCTV cameras, access cards were required at entry points, guards were posted at residences and libraries, and high-risk public roads frequented by students were patrolled by private security.
“A mobile security app, downloadable from the university website, allows students and staff to alert RMS of emergencies with a single touch.”
She said the recent crimes had caused anxiety among staff and students.
“We have been made aware that there are plans to disrupt the normal functioning of our campuses in the next few days, and we caution all university community members against engaging in unlawful activities. Any individual found to have tarnished the institution's reputation through their actions will face charges and appropriate penalties.”