UKZN Westville erupts in chaos

Published Sep 14, 2015


Durban - Students damaged buildings and burnt at least two cars at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus on Monday in protests that again focused on funding and lack of accommodation.

Roads near the campus were barricaded with rocks, turning the area into a traffic nightmare.

Five campuses across the province were involved in the protests, said Phinda Mofokeng, South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) provincial secretary, on Monday. The protests would roll out over the next few days.

“The financial aid issue deprives students of an opportunity to education.

“The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) requires that a student pass at least 50 percent of their modules for financial assistance. Initially the deal for funding used to be between the student and NSFAS, but now the university says students must pass 70 percent of their modules to qualify for financial assistance. Students will not accept this,” said Mofokeng.

He said the university was making it difficult for students to enrol for the next year if they had outstanding debt. Some students had used their parents’ homes as collateral for them to register to further their degrees.

The university was closed on Monday and all students and staff, including those not protesting, were told to go home.

The violence started at 9.30pm on Sunday and continued on Monday.

Students emerged occasionally from residences to hurl stones and bottles at the university’s security guards with the centre of the protests focused on the campus’s Oval residence.

Campus security guards, known by students as the Red Ants because of their red uniforms and black bullet-proof vests, were armed with crowd control weapons similar to paintball guns. They used tear gas on Monday to fend off the students.

The students used ironing boards as shields against the crowd control weapons.

The smell of charred wood and melted metal hung over the campus, with the two burnt vehicles, twisted by the flames, in front of the university’s Risk Management Services offices. The offices had also been damaged by fire.

Campus security came under attack from stone- and bottle-throwers who hid in the residences.

Mofokeng said the five campuses of the UKZN resolved to go on a strike action after university management failed to resolve old issues which were raised during the era of the previous vice-chancellor, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.

The university closed all its campuses for several days in February when students protested about the same issues.

In March, Albert van Jaarsveld was inaugurated as the new vice-chancellor of UKZN.

At the inauguration, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor appealed to Van Jaarsveld to “make first generation students feel at home”. Pandor said Van Jaarsveld had to provide a clear vision of what UKZN stood for as a university.

“How can you make UKZN graduates proud of their education, proud of their degrees, and proud to say to prospective employers: I am a UKZN graduate,” Pandor said.

The university had not responded to questions at the time the Daily News went to press.

Daily News

Related Topics: