The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has suspended lectures indefinitely amid chaos caused by protesting students at its Westville campus on 4 February 2019. File photo: Gcina Ndwalane/ African News Agency (ANA)

Durban – Six out of 250 guards at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) campuses throughout KwaZulu-Natal are armed, vice-chancellor Thandwa Mthembu said on Wednesday. 

“There have been muggings at gunpoint, knife-point… so we have six security guards out of a team of about 250 members across our seven campuses that carry guns, mainly for guarding the perimeter of the campuses where muggings and other crimes take place,” he said. 

Mthembu, along with other senior managers, was addressing the media at the Coastlands Hotel in uMhlanga following the death of student Mlungisi Madonsela, who was shot at the Steve Biko campus after an altercation with DUT security guards on Tuesday afternoon.

The 20-year-old later died in hospital. 

University staff members were also injured during the violence and had to be hospitalised. DUT has been closed until further notice.

“I am truly sorry that this happened on our doorstep, our campus. I hope we will all give the deserved respect to Mlungisi and his family as his family grapples with this terrible loss,” said Mthembu.  

He said the university condemned “the use of live ammunition in the strongest possible terms, especially at a university campus”. 

“We will certainly act swiftly once the authorities have completed their investigations. The members of the security personnel that were involved were taken in for questioning by police on Tuesday,” he said. 

Students at tertiary education institutions across the province embarked on a “total shutdown” on Monday as they protested late or no government funding, accommodation shortages and other issues. 

While DUT was relatively calm on Monday, the University of KwaZulu-Natal had vehicles torched at its Westville and Howard College campuses. A guard hut was also burned down at the Westville campus. UKZN closed all of its campuses following the violence. 

Students at DUT have been protesting over a shortage of accommodation and the state of outsourced residences, which are leased by service providers.

Mthembu said that in 2018, about 50% of DUT’s students were supported by the government’s National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). DUT had about 13 000 beds available for about 30 000 students, he said. 

By 2019, the institution had “more than doubled” the number of beds provided in 2017, he said. 

“In effect, we have organised beds for 44% of our student body, up from 5110 that we offered in Durban, for example, in 2017.” 

He asked that Madonsela’s family be allowed the time and space to grieve. 

“We will be engaging with students and government at provincial and national level and hope we will collectively find the best way forward,” he said.

Management would be meeting with the Student Representative Council on Wednesday afternoon. 

African News Agency (ANA)