Minister Blade Nzimande condemns violent protest at University of KwaZulu-Natal

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande, strongly condemns violence that characterises the student protest at the University of KwaZulu-Natal – Westville, Howard College, Edgewood and the Pietermaritzburg campuses.

The protest has been marred by constant conflict between students and police, with cars and offices of the Risk Management Services at Westville campus; the building housing the HIV and Aids support unit at the Howard College campus; and an office at the Department of Student Residence Affairs at the Durban campus torched.

“It is unfortunate, that after the successful meeting we held with the South African Union of Students (SAUS) on Friday 31 January 2020, which represents 26 public universities SRC’s, we find ourselves having to deal with such senseless destruction of the university and private property.

These attacks look like well-orchestrated acts of sabotage and criminality meant to undermine and reverse the already achieved milestones reached with SAUS”, said Minister Nzimande. Minister Nzimande calls upon SAUS and students in general to isolate those responsible for this anarchy and the destruction of property.

The Minister further reiterated that in an effort to assist students to register, government made a provision that all NSFAS qualifying students with debt should be allowed to register, provided they sign the Acknowledgement of Debt form and they meet the academic requirements for continued funding. This provision also enables NSFAS-qualifying students to register without making upfront payments, emphasised the Minister.

We have further made provisions that students, whether they owe the university or not, should be provided their academic records, either for the purpose of pursuing employment opportunities or for further study, added the Minister.

Minister Nzimande said that amongst other priorities, he remains committed to discuss with SAUS the matter of student debt for non-NSFAS-qualifying students through existing engagement processes.

Minister Nzimande has had a telephone conversation this morning with the Minister of Police, Mr Bheki Cele, emphasizing the necessity and urgency in identifying and arresting the perpetrators of these senseless attacks that also pose a serious threat to the safety of students and university employees alike.

The Minister further calls on the UKZN Vice-Chancellor to tighten up security and take any measures necessary to prevent any form of anarchy and criminality at the university.

I also call upon the UKZN University Alumni, parents and communities to join government and management of the university to condemn these acts of lawlessness, said Minister Nzimande. Minister Nzimande calls upon all management of our institutions to implement all that we have collectively agreed upon with the department, USAF, SAUS and NSFAS in order to ensure a smooth registration process and smooth start to the academic year.

The Minister would also like to thank all the universities – students, management and staff, who have been working tirelessly together to ensure the continuation of the registration process and the implementation of the agreement reached with the South African Union of Students (SAUS).

The Minister further thanks the law enforcement agencies, the emergency services and private security who continued to work hard to contain violence at UKZN and other universities which had minor disruptions.

The Minister and the Department will closely monitor developments in all universities and together with the university management respond in the best interest of safeguarding the interest of all students and the universities.

Source: Government of South Africa