A South African university has been evacuated with plans to shut down the campus indefinitely after students protesting at the school set fire to campus buildings, causing the administration building to burn to the ground.
A spokesman for North-West University in Mafikeng said an administrative block which included a science center at the school was burned down last Wednesday night by protesting students. The residence of a dormitory supervisor was also set on fire.
“Students have nowhere to go. They are just roaming around the streets of Mahikeng,” said Ofentse Pilane, 24, a final-year political science student. “International students are facing severe problems,” he said.
Degenaar said the university is working to ensure students can stay at a nearby civic hall until they can find their way home, which in some cases is to neighboring countries.
He went on to say that a disruption to the students representative council meeting by protesters caused the violence to break out after security guards began using tear gas and rubber bullets in an attempt to break up the crowd. Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) members and other students were protesting the inauguration of the new Student Representative Council on campus. The students were angry over the university’s decision to put an end to the SRC last month and replacing it with a new council.
The SRC had been disbanded after reports from management suggested it was not doing its duty.
In addition, the EFFSC is seeking the immediate removal of private security at the school who use live ammunition against students.
DA national spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme noted that although the DA supports the rights of groups to protest so long as there is a legitimate reason for doing so, she said that violence associated with such protests was unacceptable, especially when it caused other students to miss out on their studies.
She said that in this instance, the campus has had to shut down and send students home, which has had serious implications for students who do not currently have the resources to return home.
The school is requesting that EFF leader Julius Malema put an immediate end to the violence as well as the use of social media to create additional any violence. A number of Tweets were found on the EFF official account yesterday that pushed feelings of violence, intolerance, and destruction at the school, reports Linsey Chutel for ABC News.
“Twenty-two years after the end of Apartheid — students are still being mobilised along racial lines by radical groups. In a time of economic hardship and job losses‚ all political parties should be focused on finding ways to work together for the good of every South African. Now‚ more than ever‚ leadership is necessary to ensure that the situation does not escalate to the point where life is lost‚” Van Damme added.
Several universities in South Africa have been disrupted recently by student protesters angry over issues including housing costs and alleged racism by university administrators.
South African President Jacob Zuma said: “No amount of anger should drive students to burn their own university and deny themselves and others education.”