The situation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal remained relatively calm on Wednesday, despite a chilling warning to students to be prepared for “mass destruction” at the Howard College campus in Durban.
A voice note began circulating on social media on Tuesday night‚ the origins of which are unkown but are believed to be that of a student leader after a meeting that night. In the clip, a female student reports back that a strike was planned from 8 am onwards on Wednesday.
“Consensus and conclusion is that we’re taking to the streets on Thursday‚ Howard College. We’re shutting down campus from 8 o’clock in the morning until however long it takes us to do that.
“The strike is carrying on Thursday and if I were you‚ unless you want to be part of the strike‚ I wouldn’t come to campus because on Thursday it’s basically mass destruction. So you come at your own risk or you don’t come at all.”
In the voice-note‚ she tells a student called Khomotso: “In terms of finishing your degree it’s not looking good.”
However, despite the threatening message, there were few incidents of violence at UKZN campuses on Wednesday.
UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the university was investigating incidents of intimidation.
“University management are looking into incidents where some rogue perpetrators are using social media platforms to threaten violent protest action and intimidate students to keep away from campus. Some of the inflammatory remarks made include threats to ‘shut down campus’, ‘cause mass destruction’, and stop students from ‘finishing their degrees’,” he said.
Seshoka said a case of assault and defeating the ends of justice was opened with police after a senior Risk Management Services officer and a Public Order Policing officer were assaulted by a student at the Pietermaritzburg campus.
The university has had to reschedule exams after a two-week suspension of academic programmes due to the student protests.
The new schedule shows that lectures will end on November 25‚ while exams will commence on December 1 and end on December 15.
UKZN remained on high alert on Wednesday, but the situation was quiet at other tertiary institutions in the province, which were still closed for their September holidays.
The campuses of the Durban University of Technology (DUT), University of Zululand (UniZul) and Mangosuthu University (MUT) were quiet, with students expected to start classes next week.
The DUT said it had not made a decision regarding the fee structure for 2017.
“Council has advised DUT management to meet with the SRC, the three labour unions and with other relevant DUT stakeholders, and to formulate a 2017 fee proposal that will be served before Council’s Finance Committee, Council’s Human Resources Committee and Council’s Exco,” said spokesperson Alan Khan.
“It will then be tabled for approval at a full council meeting. Once council has made a final decision, the university will inform all students, staff and stakeholders,” he said.
UniZulu and MUT failed to respond to The Witness’s queries.
The situation remained tense at universities in other provinces — at Wits students clashed violently with police.
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said “it is most disturbing to see such violent protests enflamed by rogue elements after wide consultation was undertaken on the measures announced this week to address the ongoing issue of university fees”.
“Government has heeded the call of students by subsidising fee increases in 2017 to poor, working class and ‘missing middle’ students. We cannot subsidise all students in the same manner.
“Those with the means to do so should contribute to increasing university costs by paying fees.
“Fees remain a significant income stream for universities, together with government subsidies and third stream income.”
THE Young Communist League of SA has taken offence at the ANC Youth League’s call for the ANC to discipline Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande for advising tertiary institutions that they may raise fees by up to eight percent.
The Youth League said Nzimande had acted contrary to the decision of the ANC NEC which “resolved that the principle of no-fee increase in universities should remain in place to give a chance for a consultative engagement with all stakeholders in order to arrive at an economically viable and affordable cost of higher education”.
However, YCL deputy secretary Isaac Luthuli said the fact that the ANC had publicly welcomed Nzimande’s announcement meant the Youth League was out of order, and called for the ANC to take “serious steps against its Youth Desk”.
Luthuli said free education was possible in the country, provided there was political will from the ANC.
He said ANC Youth League members could help working class children still indebted to the education system by not spending money equivalent to a year’s tuition fees on one night at expensive night clubs.
Luthuli added that the expensive cars driven by ANC Youth League members should also be sold to contribute to the quest for free higher education for the poor.
“The extravagance and opulent lifestyle its leaders are living can fund almost 50% of needy students,” Luthuli said.