Durban - The University of KwaZulu Natal’s damages bill from the latest protest action is estimated by insurers at R60 million.

“We haven’t tallied up everything because there were a few things that happened over the last day or two - small fires that were put out in Pietermaritzburg and so on,” vice-chancellor Dr Albert van Jaarsveld said on Wednesday.

In an interview he spoke on “desecuritising” the varsity, the threat to the academic programme and his views on free education.

Since the start of protest action roughly six weeks ago, damage has included:


Van Jaarsveld said he did not have the figure of how much extra security was costing. Over the past two years the university had spent tens of millions of rands on security which had not been budgeted for.

“We will relook at our budgeting processes looking forward because clearly this seems to be a recurrent expense that we now have to start dealing with.”

Van Jaarsveld said the situation at UKZN was relatively peaceful on Wednesday, but that there was still security on campus.

“We still have sporadic incidents happening,” he said.

“We would like to desecuritise’ our environment as best we can, but my major concern is always the safety and security of the majority of the students and the staff.”

In respect of the university’s academic programme, the vice- chancellor said they were battling to “come up with a new programme”.

The next two to three weeks would determine whether they would be able to finish the year’s academic programme.

However, he was confident that at this stage exams would be completed before Christmas.

“The supplementary examinations will probably have to be dealt with in January,” Van Jaarsveld said.

Further disruptions that would push the academic programme back even further would be a disaster for next year’s intake, he said.

The vice-chancellor said he and UKZN were behind the call for free education. “We must achieve - as a society - free education for the poor.”

The accumulation of debt from fees over a number of years had made it very difficult for many to attend university. That was unacceptable and needed to be rectified as soon as possible.

Van Jaarsveld was adamant that access to university must be driven by merit and people’s ability and willingness to work.

He felt the #FeesMustFall movement had started a broader conversation, that was “more inclusive”.

Speaking for vice-chancellors across the country, he said: “We are fully supportive of finding that money and allowing people from poor communities to come to our universities.”

Van Jaarsveld said that broader state support was a relief - particularly for UKZN, which attracted many students from rural backgrounds.

On free education for everyone, however, he thought allowing the rich a “free ride” was not in the best interests of society.

His personal view was that his own children should not study free.

“I think we can use our state resources a lot better than that. I think that’s a conversation we have to have at a societal level and decide if that’s the way we want to go,” he said.

UKZN spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the academic programme was continuing on all campuses on Wednesday. There were, however, sporadic incidents of protest action on the Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses.


Independent Online