Violent protests force S.African universities to close

February 25, 2016 7:39 pm
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Police used rubber bullets and teargas at North-West University to disperse students who left a trail of destruction/XINHUA-File
Police used rubber bullets and teargas at North-West University to disperse students who left a trail of destruction/XINHUA-File
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Feb 25 – Violent demonstrations and arson attacks that burnt down campus buildings forced at least three South African universities to shut their doors on Thursday in a new wave of student protests.

Universities have been a focus for unrest in recent months over issues including rising tuition fees, allegations of racism and a dispute over the use of the Afrikaans language.

Several buildings at the North West University’s Mafikeng campus were torched on Wednesday including a science centre and an administration building which held student records.

Overview
  • Several buildings at the North West University's Mafikeng campus were torched on Wednesday including a science centre and an administration building which held student records.
  • President Jacob Zuma condemned the destruction of property on campuses including at University of Free State, University of Pretoria and the University of Cape Town.

President Jacob Zuma condemned the destruction of property on campuses including at University of Free State, University of Pretoria and the University of Cape Town.

“No amount of anger should drive students to burn their own university and deny themselves and others education,” he said in a statement.

“The burning of university buildings at a time when we are prioritising the education of our youth is inexplicable and can never be condoned.”

Police used rubber bullets and teargas at North-West University to disperse students who left a trail of destruction during a protest over what they said was a rigged election of a student council.

The university said Thursday that the campus was closed indefinitely.

A protest at the University of Pretoria over the use of Afrikaans led to clashes between black and white students, also forcing the university to shut down.

“The university is currently meeting with various student bodies and stakeholders to address the issues affecting learning,” University of Pretoria spokeswoman Anna-Retha Bouwer told AFP.

The Afrikaans language is associated with the apartheid era.

In 1976, black high school pupils in Soweto rebelled against attempts to introduce the language as the medium of instruction, an uprising seen as a major turning point in the fight against apartheid.

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