President condemns violence, destruction of property at universities

In statement released this afternoon, Zuma condemned acts of violence during protests at universities.

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

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

The president has appealed to protesters to act with utmost restraint and express their grievances within the confines of the law and the Constitution.

In a statement released this afternoon, President Zuma says the burning of university buildings at a time when the country is prioritising education is unacceptable.

Last night, students torched three buildings at the North West University, after the inauguration of the incoming Student Representative Council (SRC) was disrupted.

Spokesperson Koos Degenaar says no arrests have yet been made.

"I can confirm that there is only about three buildings that have been set alight. We have not established what the damage is at this stage, but it must be millions of rands."

On Monday, violent scenes broke out at the University of the Free State between spectators and protesters who had disrupted a rugby match.

The organisers of the Varsity Cup Rugby tournament have confirmed that all fixtures for Monday 29 February have been suspended in the wake of that fight.

Meanwhile, Students at the university say they're now hopeful that management will listen to their list of demands, including the removal of their vice chancellor after giving a commitment to resolving all workers issues.

Workers announced today that they've suspended their strike and will now return to their posts on Monday.

SRC President Lindokuhle Ntuli says student protests will continue until Vice Chancellor Jonathan Jansen steps down.

"Nothing has been done. All we have been doing as a university, under Professor Jansen's administration, is to cover our dirty linen and the rubbish of this university under a very beautiful carpet."

The federation says South Africa can only defeat racism if the economy is restructured to change power relations in the country.

General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali says workers deal with racism every day.

"The economic power of whites affords them the power to give expression to their racist view. Workers are the ones who are dealing with racial bigotry every day."


University Vice Chancellors, principles and rectors say they are gravely concerned by the escalating violence and disruptive protests at campuses across the country.

The North West University's Mahikeng campus has been shut down indefinitely, after its admin and science buildings were gutted by

Students clashed with private security guards and the police late into the night.

WATCH: (Warning - This video contains scenes which may upset sensitive viewers) Disruptions at NWU


Posted by Samantha Lekhetho on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The University of Pretoria's Hatfield and Groenkloof campuses have suspended academic activities until Monday, along with the Tshwane University of Technology's Soshanguve campus.

Universities South Africa Chair, and Wits Vice Chancellor, Adam Habib, says it appears the violent acts are being planned and committed with a singular intent to deliberately disrupt and destabilise the universities through intimidation and violence.

He says the university executives have engaged with the affected parties on their continuous demands and have directed limited financial resources to ensure safety on campuses.

Habib says universities do not have the internal capacity to manage violent protests, they also don't want to develop such capacity because this should not form part of normal operations in the higher education sector.

However, he says in the event of violent protests, they're obliged to take the necessary steps to protest staff, students and property.