Durban – The University of KwaZulu-Natal has closed all of its campuses in Durban and Pietermaritzburg following a spate of protests.
In a statement released on Wednesday night by university spokesman Lesiba Seshoka, read: “ In light of the violent student protest action that took place at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) Westville, Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses earlier this week, University Management has taken a decision to suspend all academic programmes on all campuses tomorrow (Wednesday).”
Seshoka said that the university’s management was engaging with the student body in a bid t resolve the crisis at the institution.
Earlier, on Tuesday afternoon, university vice chancellor Dr Albert van Jaarsveld said one person had been arrested from protests on Sunday night and Monday morning that had forced the closure of the Westville campus.
However, while Westville had been closed, all the other campuses in Pietermaritzburg and Durban had continued to function.
Van Jaarsveld had given no indication that the remaining campuses would be closed and had expressed the hope that the academic programme would resume.
He said that while the university supported the right of students to protest, it could not support the wanton destruction of property.
The protests at the Westville erupted at the campus on Sunday night where the main administration block was set alight. Protests continued through to Monday morning with the police’s Public Order Policing unit being deployed.
Two cars were also torched and numerous tyres were set alight and staff arriving for work in the morning found the entrances blocked by protesters.
“We are appalled at the destruction from the behaviour that played itself out on Sunday evening,” said Van Jaarsveld.
He said a full investigation was underway with video footage and photographs being analysed to determine who was involved.
He said it was still too early to determine the cost of the damage caused by the protests.
He did not provide any details about the person who was arrest and comment was not immediately obtainable from the police.
He said the university management had been in communication with a number of student groupings, but that it was not clear what was behind the protests.
He said contrary to any reports there was no discussion to increase fees and that the only discussion was to increase the once off admin fee upon registration from R3500 to R5000. But this had not yet been decided by the university’s council.
In Pietermaritzburg, the higher education minister Mduduzi Manana condemned the student actions.
Speaking at the launch of a youth project the province’s capital city, he said: “”We are very disappointed in the manner in which the students have decided to vent their frustration, we see this as unscientific to destroy university infrastructure, we advise the institution to take action against students who have engaged in such conduct.”
He said violence would result in society not taking the students’ grievances seriously.
“We condemn any form of violent protest, the concerns can be resolved through discussions between the management and student representatives, there is no indication that by destroying property your problems can suddenly be resolved,” he said.