/ 25 February 2016

NWU closes Mafikeng campus indefinitely after violent protests

The Northwest University admin building.
The Northwest University admin building.

Students at the Northwest University’s Mafikeng Campus were told to go home on Wednesday night as the institution’s management opted to shut the campus down “indefinitely” in the wake of violent protests.

University spokesperson Koos Degenaar said: “All students will have to go home indefinitely. The campus is closed.”

The announcement followed clashes between students and university security as well as the torching of a car and two buildings by students angry at the university’s decision last month to dissolve the Student Representative Council (SRC) and replace it with a new SRC council.

Degenaar said that the university would issue a full statement in the morning on the situation.

He said that the trouble on the campus had started after a newly appointed Student Representative Council (SRC) was inaugurated on Wednesday.

The previous SRC was dissolved earlier this month by the university management, which claimed that it had not been performing its duties as required by its constitution.

After the inauguration there were running battles between university security and students who supported the previous SRC. Rubber bullets and teargas had to be used to disperse the students.

“A car belonging to a security company was burnt down and two university buildings were also burnt. No arrest has been made, we are investigating the incident,” said Brigadier Leornard Hlathi.

One of the torched buildings was reported to be the administration building while the other was reported to be science centre building.

Hlathi said that police had received reports of shooting, but he was not aware of any deaths.

“I can confirm that we have received reports of shooting and people injured, but no one has yet opened a case.”

He said that the allegations of shooing would be investigated, but pointed out that this had happened prior to the police’s arrival on the campus.

Degenaar also dismissed as unfounded reports on social media which claimed a student had been killed in the clashes.

“It is incorrect that someone was killed. Reports that security used Sharp ammunition are incorrect,” he said. Students allegedly pelted the security guards with stones when they were requested to disperse. They had gathered and demanded that suspended former campus SRC president Benz Mabengwane address them.

Initially lectures were suspended on Wednesday following the violence that broke out at the campus, but following the burning of the buildings, the decision was taken to close the campus.

Degenaar said that the fire appeared to have started in the Science Centre before spreading to the administration building. – African News Agency