SIHLE MLAMBO AND SHERLISSA PETERS
Durban - Protesting students threw faeces at a test venue at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) Pietermaritzburg campus, disturbing the proceedings on Monday.
This happened after a residence was set alight on the same campus earlier on Monday.
The poo-throwing stunt was followed by the shutdown of another institution, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) on Monday.
The situation at UKZN campuses in Durban seems to have normalised, but on Monday, an arson attack at the William O’Brien residence in Pietermaritzburg destroyed the entrance into the residence.
UKZN spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said excrement was thrown in the commerce building and subsequently a test and lecture were disrupted.
He said disciplinary action would be taken against those involved.
A lecturer, who asked to remain anonymous, said the students and all present in the venue were disgusted by the act.
“They carried the poo in plastic bags and threw it on the floor. It was also smeared on parts of the walls and on computers. It was quite disgusting,” said the lecturer.
At DUT, students marched across Durban campuses and enforced a total shutdown of the university, including the Indumiso campus in Pietermaritzburg.
They wielded sticks and wore party-political colours, but were largely peaceful, until they broke two windows of the City Campus’s cafeteria.
DUT spokesman, Alan Khan, sent an e-mail on Monday evening, announcing that all lectures, practicals and assessments at the institution would be suspended on Tuesday and Wednesday. Khan said this would include closure of the libraries.
However, all staff were required to report for duty at the university.
DUT SRC president, Zama Mncube, said they were marching primarily for the 4 000 students at the university who remained unfunded despite being promised funding by the NSFAS.
She called for the private sector - who were in control of 70% of the economy - to assist in funding higher education.
Professor Theo Andrew, deputy vice-chancellor for operations, confirmed students had shut down DUT and urged students to refrain from threatening non-protesting students.
“Unfortunately there were reports of intimidation and threats to non-protesting students and several classes were disrupted. While the students were largely non-violent, some windows were broken at City Campus,” he said.
Bonginkosi Khanyile, EFF Student Command activist at DUT, said they were calling for free and decolonised education and branded Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande “foolish” and a “hooligan”.
“We want to talk about free education, not percentages. We are like the people of Marikana, we do not discuss percentages. We discuss the amount.
“The amount is zero, not a percentage. I go to school with my school bag and (the) government pays my school fees,” he said.
He said: “The minister (Nzimande) is the biggest hooligan we have in the country because he is betraying the very same values that they had when they assumed power. They promised the people. We are not going to back down until we achieve it,” he said.
They had raised the matter with the university before, in February and May, with no solutions.
Mncube also criticised Nzimande and said the money that had been set aside for historic debt by Nzimande had still not been paid.
She personally owed R26 000 from her 2013 academic year.
“Up to now, the historic debt that was promised to be paid has not been paid. Some students have not even received their qualifications because of their debt from past years,” she said.
She said they would institute a shutdown of the university until a meeting with management, the Department of Higher Education and NSFAS tomorrow.
She stressed, however, that they had no intention to vandalise or burn any buildings.
In Pietermaritzburg, private security guards found dagga on one of the students as they raided a residence.
It is believed the guards were searching for items that could have been used in the arson attack.
Students resisted the search, demanding a search warrant, and police kept order as the situation grew more hostile.
On campus, students gathered on the library lawns in Pietermaritzburg to be addressed by student leaders and to pray.
Sasco student leaders have vehemently denied they were responsible for the arson.
“Security guards were stationed at all the entrances to the residences.
“So how did the fire start? We need to start asking these questions. We are intellectuals, we are not criminals,” student leader Thami Dlamini said on Monday.
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