All academic activities at the University of Limpopo (UL) resumed on Monday only to be followed by violent protest action by students which resulted in several shops being looted and 16 students arrested later the day. In the light of the recent protest actions by students countrywide demanding a zero percentage increase in class fees which was announced by President Jacob Zuma last Friday, violent actions continued across the country.
At UL students allegedly demanded all outstanding debt in class fees to be cleared. According to Provincial Police Spokesperson Ronel Otto 13 students appeared in the Mankweng Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on charges of public violence and possession of stolen property. “Three more students were arrested on Tuesday and were expected to appear in the same court yesterday (Wednesday). Tyres and a security vehicle were set alight on Monday evening. The university’s cafeteria and other shops in the area were broken into and looted,” Otto said, adding that Public Order Police remain on the scene to patrol and monitor the situation.
Meanwhile UL Vice Chancellor and Principal Mahlo Mokgalong confirmed that UL will also implement a 0% increase in tuition and accommodation fees. He further said all academic activities at the university resumed on Monday. “In order to give students adequate time to prepare, the examinations will resume on 2 November and the original examination time table will be followed as of then. In order to accommodate the postponement of examinations, a revised time table will be issued for examinations scheduled from Wednesday (yesterday) to tomorrow Friday (tomorrow),” Mokgalong said in a media statement.
He added that the university’s library has been reopened and students are urged to make use of the facility.
Mokgalong also responded to the students’ letter of demands on Monday. On the demand that students with outstanding balances to be allowed to register as per academic performance he said: “UL has long acceded to this request and such requests are dealt with by the Vice Chancellor’s office on a case by case basis.”
Students further demanded free special examination; an independent National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) office on campus; study work programmes and skills development; updated library books; practical programmes must be compulsory; qualified academic and administrative staff; proper living conditions and extensions of residence on campus; a study week before exams; health centre must be open 24/7; contractors must get bonus in December; labour brokers must be demolished; students insurance claims must cover personal belongings; academic record must be free and accessible anytime and best performance awards in prize money should be equal to pay outstanding fees.
Mokgalong responded to most demands saying that it will be assessed, reviewed or the university will engage with the involved role players. On the NSFAS issue he said: “NSFAS is implementing a pilot project at five universities. NSFAS will review the experience from the pilot and determine the roll-out timelines to all other universities.”
He added to the issue of study work programmes that the implementation of the various initiatives in this regard across the campus will be reviewed and firm recommendations made on how best to strengthen implementation. He also responded to the library books and said that the annual budget allocations are made to the faculties to replenish and update library material and holdings.
Story: RC Myburgh
Featured photo: Shops were looted during violent protest action at UL Monday evening.