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NWU students evacuated after violence, destruction on campus

Some students are seen walking around campus with nowhere to go after buildings were torched.

student protest,North West University,NWU
Local

MAHIKENG - As repairs begin on the North West University’s (NWU) Mahikeng campus following violent clashes and vandalism, students say their emergency evacuation from the institution is unreasonable.

The university has been shut down indefinitely after yesterday’s violent protests relating to a number of issues including the inauguration of a new Student Representative Council (SRC).

NWU management says it believes the lives of students aren’t safe under these conditions.

The science centre and the administration block at the North West University have been destroyed by a fire during a violent demonstration at the institution on Wednesday night.  Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN

Contractors have arrived at the Mahikeng campus to start small repairs on a building believed to have sustained millions of rands in damage.

The vandalism on campus property took place after a clashes between private security and students after stun grenades and rubber bullets were used to disperse a crowd that disrupted the inauguration of a new SRC.

The science centre and the administration block at the North West University have been destroyed by a fire during a violent demonstration at the institution on Wednesday night. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN

Students used social media to circulate images of what they say is live ammunition which was used on them by security officers.

The university’s management refuted further claims that a student had died during the clashes. 

While repairs begin, evacuated students, including former SRC member Paseka Molete, say they have no money to go home.

Molete says, “A lot of us are coming from a very disadvantaged families. Where will the parents get money to send for you to come home?”

While some students have already packed their bags and are waiting to be picked up, a few others are walking around the campus with nowhere to go.

STUDENTS, MANAGEMENT GIVE CONFLICTING REASONS FOR PROTEST

Conflicting reasons have been given for clashes between security officials and students.

While management says protests started abruptly, in opposition to a new SRC, students say the institution’s leaders have been aware of their grievances for a while.

Yesterday’s clashes saw an admin building set alight, with blame now being shifted about who caused the damage. 

The university says students were unhappy about the inauguration of a new SRC after a previous leadership structure was dissolved.

Spokesperson Koos Degenaar says, “Students were not in favour of the appointment of a new SRC.”

But a member of the old SRC, Benz Mabengwane, says the issue is far deeper than disgruntlement over the student council.

“[The grievances are] that Afrikaans is no longer used as a medium of instruction in Potchefstroom, and that there are no quotas for the admission of black students in Potchefstroom. It is very deep.”

With the university being closed indefinitely, students who are still on campus only have a few hours left to leave.

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma has strongly condemned recent incidents of violence and destruction of property at several universities across the country.

Zuma has appealed to protesters to act with restraint and express their grievances within the confines of the law and constitution.

He says the burning of university buildings at a time when the country is prioritising education is unacceptable and can never be condoned.

WATCH: What's left of one of three buildings torched at the NWU Mahikeng campus

NOWHERE TO GO

Stranded students at the campus say they are angry at the institution for uprooting them at short notice due to protests.

Yesterday, those living on campus were instructed to leave the institutions premises for their own safety.

But some students say they don’t have any money and still don’t know how they’re going to get home.

One student says his home is too far for him to travel immediately.

“I am from Tlakgameng, very far from here. It’s a village in Vryburg. I don’t even know how I will get there.”

Another says, “This is just how it is. We just have to go home. We’ll see as time goes.”

A third students says she is waiting on the bus.

“I’m stranded. I’m just waiting for the bus. I don’t know how I will get home.”

(Edited by Masechaba Sefularo)

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