The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) suspended registration on Wednesday following violent protests at its Howard College campus and arson at its Westville campus.
According to senior KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman Brigadier Jay Naicker, about 100 students gathered on campus on Wednesday morning and started disrupting registration points.
“They forced other students to join them and the crowd grew to about 1,000 students. They moved to Princess Alice Street, and set municipal bins on fire on the road. Registration has been suspended.
“The situation is tense. There has been slight damage to UKZN property. Police have been deployed to monitor the protests and take appropriate action when protesters commit crime,” said Naicker.
At the university’s Westville campus, a building was set alight.
UKZN’s corporate relations director, Ashton Bodrick, said the institution had been dealing with “wanton criminal behaviour” by protesting students since Monday.
“Security staff and police have worked tirelessly to safeguard the university community. Despite their best efforts, a grave act of arson was committed in the early hours of this morning when the Risk Management Services (RMS) building (security control centre) on the Westville campus was set alight and burnt.
“The incident was compounded by a power outage experienced throughout the campus since [Tuesday] afternoon. Power has been restored on the campus.”
Bodrick said the university respected the rights of students to protest, but condemned “criminality”.
“There is no excuse for any act of violence and damage/destruction of valuable university resources and property. All incidents of assault, destruction of property and arson are being investigated by University RMS and police. Perpetrators found engaging in criminal behaviour will be arrested and apprehended.”
Security had been bolstered, he said, and every effort was being made to ensure that the academic programme proceeded as scheduled, with no interruptions.
“It is imperative that we continue, as any loss of time will impact negatively on the academic calendar.”
He appealed to protesting students to “stop the violence” and allow space for consultations.
“We have heard the student grievances raised and are actively seeking solutions to the current impasse at both an institutional and national level. To the university community, I assure you that we are making every effort to stop further protest action and restore calm.”