Students seen leaving the campus at TUT south campus in Soshanguve with their bags and they say its for their own safety. Photo: Bongani Shilubane

Pretoria - All academic activities at two Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) campuses have been suspended for the remainder of the year following days of violence.

University management also informed students to vacate the Soshanguve North and South campuses for safety reasons.

The students had been given until 5pm on Monday to leave the premises. The rest of the TUT campuses will not be affected by the closure, and will carry on with exams.

Signs that something big was brewing were evident on Sunday evening when TUT management notified students that all exams at the two campuses had been postponed indefinitely.

This was amid discussions at management level on the best possible way to defuse the long-standing impasse with students.

TUT spokeswoman Willa de Ruyter said the decision to close down the campuses was based solely on the safety of students.

This followed violent clashes between the students and security guards brought on to the campuses to restore order at the weekend.

“The university has as a result decided to suspend academic activities for students with immediate effect at both the Soshanguve South and North campuses for the rest of the year. This is as a result of the continued volatility,” she said.

De Ruyter could not indicate what would happen to the end-of-the-year exams, now under way, but which were disrupted by students demanding that their historical debts be written off.

“At the moment we cannot say with certainty when exams would commence, but the decision will be communicated to students as and when it has been made.”

The Gencor Hall, the main exam centre at the South campus, along with the information centre and two security vehicles, were torched.

The protests started to take an ugly turn when protesting students vandalised a cafeteria at the South campus last Wednesday. That same day, police arrested 16 students in connection with the violence, but released them a day later.

The same group of students from the Soshanguve campuses tried to disrupt academic activities at the main campus in Pretoria West. But their attempts were thwarted when police were called to the campus to restore order.

De Ruyter said: “Students have been requested to vacate these two campuses for their own safety by no later than 5pm, November 23.

“The university cannot accept any liability for the safety of any student who fails to adhere to the request to vacate the campuses.”

However, the students had started vacating the campuses of their own accord on Sunday, having declared that they feared for their safety.

Dozens of students had also been seen leaving on Monday morning before the decision to shut down the two campuses was announced.

Hours after the announcement, SRC members said they would challenge the decision to remove students from the residences.

“We are trying to find alternative accommodation for students because some come from other provinces and cannot pack up and go just like that.

“They should have been given adequate time to vacate the premised,” said the deputy president SRC in the South campus, Sthembiso ka Shandu. “This is not a court order. Students cannot be evicted just like that; the announcement appears to be more of a request, and that’s why we are going to challenge it.”

Ka Shandu said the notice given was far too short, and most students did not have money to travel back to their homes.

The protests started a week ago after students demanded all historical debt be cleared for them to be able to write exams and thus be able to access their final year marks. They said they saw no point in writing exams if they would not get their results.

The students also demanded the institution assisted those who were financially disadvantaged.

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