Two South African universities suspend classes over protests

Protests outside Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa. (Twitter/@eNCA
Protests outside Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa. (Twitter/@eNCA)

Protesting students have halted classes on Tuesday at two South African universities.

Students protested at the entrance of the Vaal University of Technology in the central Gauteng province, refusing to attend lectures until the university improved security following the murders of two students, according to South Africa’s national broadcaster.

“We are here to collect academic certificates not death certificates,” student Mohapi Moreki wrote on a student Facebook page.

Two students, a Zimbabwean and a Nigerian, were raped and murdered in the university’s dormitory in recent weeks, according to the director of students support services, Segopane Seroka. A South African student was also raped in January, and her attacker was recently convicted, said the official.

After bureaucratic delays for several months, the university will soon install security surveillance cameras for increased protection, said Seroka. Students also complained about crime in the surrounding neighborhood.

“I’m aware that there are other incidents off campus. It’s not for us to assume responsibility for that,” Seroka said, adding that the university management would work with private off-campus landlords to improve security.

In the coastal city of Durban, student protests against changes to financial aid turned violent at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, beginning on Sunday evening and continuing into Monday.

News images showed cars overturned and set alight, and property around the university vandalized and sometimes burned. Roads leading to the campus were barricaded with rocks.

The university is considering closing down a program that allows students to pay their debts while continuing their studies, said the youth wing of the ruling African National Congress party. In a statement, the Youth League condemned the violence but supported the students’ protests.

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