DURBAN– The University of KwaZulu-Natal has suspended its academic programme at all five of its campuses in the wake of student protests that saw at lease six cars torched and buildings burnt.

A university official said a statement would be issued later detailing the decision taken by the university management.‎ Six vehicles were torched and a building gutted by fire on the university’s Westville campus.‎

Details of what happened are sketchy, but police spokesman Lieutenant Thulani Zwane confirmed that a group of about 200 students protested on Monday night, torching the six vehicles as well as the university’s Senate Chamber Building.

There were also protests at the university’s Pietermaritzburg campus on Monday night, as well as protests at the university’s Howard College campus in Durban during the day. At the latter, police arrested 13 students. The students were protesting against possible fees hikes and inadequate accommodation at campuses.

Referring to the Westville campus protests, Zwane said: “They burnt six vehicles from the campus, threw stones at the police, vandalised Centre Management Office using stones and blocked the road. A case of public violence and arson was opened at Westville police station for investigation. No injuries and no arrests were reported.”

According to sources at the university, three of the burnt cars belonged to the institution while the others were owned by two security companies. The vehicles were torched right outside the university’s Risk Management Centre, which is responsible for the institution’s security.

In a statement issued this morning, university spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said: “‎On the Westville campus, a large auditorium was set alight at around 11:30 pm. University Risk Management Services and the Metro Fire Department managed to extinguish the fire by 3:00 am.”

Protests continued in the morning, and debris could be seen on the campus.

“Students are urged to follow established protocols and raise any issue of concern with their respective SRC representatives. The University is committed to engaging with students to address their grievances,” Seshoka said.

He said that the university had obtained a High Court Interdict, which prohibits unlawful protests, disruptive gatherings, demonstrations, mass action, intimidation or any violent act to persons or property at the entrance and premises of University campuses.

It is not known when lectures will resume.

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