Non-students taking part in protests – UKZN

African News Agency

Non-students taking part in protests – UKZN
South African Police vehicle. Photo South Africa Today.

A University of KwaZulu-Natal student leader on Monday claimed that student protests were being hijacked and admitted that some of those taking part in the protests were not even students.

Sphelele Nguse, the student representative council leader for the university’s Pietermaritzburg campus said that the struggle for free education was in danger of losing its moral high ground because of acts of vandalism that have characterised the protest action.

Nguse’s comments followed the burning of the William O’Brian residence on the Pietermaritzburg residence earlier on Monday morning.

“Our struggle is getting hijacked by negative elements that simply do not have the interest of students at heart. No student who values education can burn university infrastructure when that same facility will be needed in future,” said Nguse.

He called on UKZN students to stand up and protect their institution from thugs.

“Some of the people taking part in the protests are not students, and you can see that in the way they conduct themselves. We have always advocated for peaceful and violence-free protests, anyone who understands our cause would therefore not engage in vandalism or violence,” said Nguse.

“We want free education which is a genuine demand. But it is equally important to ensure that the infrastructure of our institution is protected because we are going to need in future,” Nguse added.

He conceded that because of the acts of vandalism, it was becoming difficult to get support from other sectors and formations, especially civil society and religious formations.

“No organisation wants to be associated with thuggery, so even the structures that would support us are becoming reluctant when on a regular basis there are media reports of vandalism. This needs to stop and it is up to students to ensure that this does not happen in our name,” he said.

On Friday, Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande made a similar call for UKZN students to protect their institution, saying it pained him as a former student to see parts of the campus getting destroyed by what he labelled as thugs.

He said parents and workers should not stand and watch as the institution gets destroyed, as this would hurt generations of students that wanted to acquire education.

University spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said a case of arson was being investigated following the fire. “A protest action continued this morning on the Pietermaritzburg Campus. Protestors set fire to the Reception area of the William O’Brien Residence. The fire department was called in to extinguish the blaze,” said Seshoka.

He called on the university community to be vigilant of their safety and security at all times, saying there was a strong security presence on all campuses and academic activity was continuing.

Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane said: “This morning at about 07:15am a building was set alight at the UKZN Campus in PMB by a group of about five people. They fled the scene after the incident.”

Zwane said no arrests had been made and that police were investigating the arson attack.

There were no immediate reports of protests and classes appeared to be going ahead as normal.

Last week the campus was the scene of running battles between the police and students amid protests demanding the elimination of fees.

A fire was started at the Malherbe Residence. Cars were stoned, one student was injured and police had to use rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas.

Nine students were arrested on Thursday and appeared in court on bail. They are currently in custody awaiting their bail hearing, which is expected to take place on Friday.

South Africa Today – South Africa News

SOURCEAfrican News Agency