Rampant student protests in KwaZulu-Natal have rocked several of the academic tertiary institutions with stoning, torching and unequivocal violence becoming the norm, leaving students in limbo as classes remain suspended and protest action continues unabated.

Students at the Hospital Road residence in South Beach set their matresses and bed frames alight and flung them from their windows

In a shocking display of dissent on Sunday night, incensed students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) flung matresses, bed frames, and other items from windows at the Hospital Road residence in South Beach, after university management failed to accede to student demands for better beds and improved living conditions at their residence.

According to media reports, UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo stated that university management was cognizant of the protest action at the South Beach residence in Hospital Road and added that students had not conveyed their grievances as yet. Zondo intimated that critical housing challenges are being addressed with a plan of action being implemented by a residence inspection team which also comprises SRC members.

Meanwhile on Monday, more than 800 Durban University of Technology (DUT) students took to the streets and marched to City Hall bearing a list of demands which they handed over in a memorandum to eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede’s advisor, Mlungisi Ntombela, escorted by more than 100 police officers. Reports indicate that DUT SRC president, Sesiyanda Godlimpi stated the students would allow the academic programme to resume once the issue of student accommodation was resolved and the more than 3500 students blocked from DUT’s systems be allowed to register.

On Monday night, DUT issued a statement suspending the academic programmes at all five DUT campuses in Durban until further notice, as decided by the Executive Committee of the university’s senate. According to them, the decision was prompted by the renewed student protests, however, SRC and DUT management will continue to engage in discussions. DUT vice chancellor, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, called the suspension of the academic programme ‘disappointing’ but said in his statement that the institution was not willing to jeopardise the safety and security of staff and students.

According to the university, the protesters ‘disrupted classes, intimidated staff and students, and the protesters violated the rights of others by publicly issuing threats against members of the DUT community.’ Lectures have also been suspended indefinitely at the University of Zululand (UniZul) and Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) since outbreaks of violence at both campuses since Sunday.

On Sunday night, an institution owned vehicle was set alight in the parking lot at the University of Zululand. On Monday, UniZul shared a post on their official Facebook page that owing to violent activities on and off campus in the past two days, students were required to vacate the university campuses in KwaDlangezwa and Richards Bay by 3pm this past Monday. At MUT, protesting students gathered outside the campus, with burning tyres leading to nine arrests by police at the Umlazi institution. Inside the campus, students began rioting and targeted police with rocks and bricks. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, however, the situation remained volatile.