JOHANNESBURG, February 5 – The acting premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala and a task team of MECs said on Tuesday that they would be meeting with stakeholders in institutions of higher learning after violent student protest action led to the suspension of lectures at the Durban University of Technology (DUT).
“It is warped logic that for students’ protests to have an impact, one must destroy already existing education infrastructure required to prepare young people to be the drivers of socio-economic development in their country,” Zikalala said in a statement.
“The burning of vehicles and buildings yesterday leaves a bitter taste and should be condemned by all the people of KwaZulu-Natal. We wish to state categorically that we fully understand and sympathise with the plight of poor students who find it impossible to meet rising education costs.”
DUT is the second tertiary education institution in KwaZulu-Natal to suspend lectures on the first official day of the 2019 academic year.
“We thank both students’ leadership and management in various tertiary institutions who have expressed their willingness to engage in a dialogue in order to turn around the situation,” the acting premier said.
“As the KZN Government, we also support the Education Minister Naledi Pandor who announced late yesterday that she had directed the Director General of the department to ensure the necessary support.”
In a statement handed to DUT management on Monday, the student representative council (SRC) said students were experiencing “funding frustrations” via the national student financial aid scheme (NSFAS) as well as housing allocation and transport issues.
The KZN government said they expected young people to exercise revolutionary discipline and isolate criminal elements who abused the constitutionally-guaranteed right to peaceful protest by destroying public property and endangering the lives of others.
“During the last Fees Must Fall campaign in 2017 the provincial government had to step in to deal with rogue elements who had hijacked genuine issues of students. We could not fold our arms in the face of brazen criminal acts that created social instability with innocent students and communities bearing the brunt,” Zikalala said.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) suspended lectures at all of its campuses following violent protests that led to the torching of a vehicle and guard hut at its Westville campus and the torching of a vehicle at its Howard College campus.
Students from the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) blocked roads with burning tyres around the Umlazi campus.
“Although the provincial government has no direct oversight role to play over the institutions of higher education, it was agreed in a meeting held on the 7th February 2017 that the provincial government must be part of efforts aimed at ensuring a disruption-free academic year. This meeting was convened by the KZN Human Resource Development Council and attended by vice-chancellors, rectors and students’ leadership. It was chaired by our Premier Willies Mchunu.”
– African News Agency (ANA)