Durban - The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s management announced on Thursday that it would temporarily shut down all campuses and residences, on campus and off campus, and students would have until 12pm on Friday to vacate the facilities.
This followed a series of violent protests in which university property was damaged and lectures were disrupted.
Early on Thursday, a Westville campus residence was torched and students staying there were taken to other residences. On Monday night, a private bus which the university contracted to transport students was burnt to ashes.
On Sunday night, two cars and the building which houses the office of vice-chancellor Albert van Jaarsveld were torched.
Police spokesman Thulani Zwane said at 2.05am on Thursday, a group of people wearing balaclavas set a laundry building at the Westville campus alight. About five rooms and the laundry were set alight while students were sleeping inside.
Zwane said a case of public violence was opened, but no arrests had been made.
After the announcement on Thursday that students had to leave, violence erupted at the Pietermaritzburg campus where a car was overturned.
Speaking to The Mercury on Thursday night, UKZN’s central SRC president, Dithobe Mosana, said the student body was only aware of the decision in the afternoon that students had to leave.
“As the SRC, we feel that we have been excluded in the decision-making process of the university. We do not see any co-operative governance.
“It looks like the only governance that is continuing is from the side of the management and not co-operation with other stakeholders of the university.
“We are very disappointed that the university decided on its own, without consultation with the SRCs, to close the residences.”
Dithobe blamed a court interdict preventing the SRC from addressing students at the university campuses and residences.
“We have been denouncing violence, but the court interdict means we are not in control of anybody. It is now students moving in different directions because student leaders have been interdicted and cannot engage with students,” he said.
Dithobe said the protest would have been kept under control if the SRC could still address students.
He said students from distant areas would be disadvantaged by the closures.
“Students are now coming to us and asking on social media where should they go. There are students who come from as far as Limpopo, the Western Cape … Where are they going to go?”
He said there were students who relied on National Student Financial Aid Scheme funding, which was not enough to cover such emergency cases.
“A lot of people have blamed the students for what is happening, but there are things the university does which agitates the students,” he said.
Zwane said two people had been arrested since the violence had erupted.
Van Jaarsveld said insurers were still assessing the damage at the campuses and the monetary value had not been finalised.
The university said it had made arrangements for international students, but students from areas within the country had to leave the university premises.
The university said it would issue a full statement to the media on Friday.