#FeesMustFall cost 18 varsities more than R460m in damage to property alone

The University of KwaZulu-Natal has been hardest hit by the violent student protests over the zero percent fee increases and fee-free higher education.

The cost of damage to property, including vehicles, at UKZN since the #FeesMustFall campaign in October last year is estimated to be more than R262-million.

Nationally, 18 universities suffered damages totalling almost R460-million between October last year and May.

The torching of buildings at UKZN between August and this week accounted for at least R180-million of the total, according to UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka. A further R82-million in damages was caused during the protests between October last year and February this year.

Buildings destroyed at UKZN since August include a coffee shop, the senate chamber, an examination hall, a building that houses risk management staff, a portion of the law library and a hostel’s reception area.

Academics are upset by the loss of valuable and rare books that were destroyed during a fire at the law library.

The University of Johannesburg said it was not sure whether the burning of its main auditorium in May, which resulted in damage estimated at R100-million, could be linked to the fees protest.

UJ confirmed that a few windows in a student residence were damaged during this week’s protests.

North-West University said it was still assessing the damage to the main gate as well as gate monitors and cameras at the main entrance to the Mahikeng campus.

“Windows in buildings across campuses were broken and slogans were spray painted on walls and buildings.

“The damages incurred are significantly less than it was during the previous wave of student unrest,” said North-West spokesperson Willie du Plessis.

Previous protests at North-West resulted in damages totalling R86-million, which included the student cafeteria, the administration building, the science centre, the bursary office and the entrance to the house parents’ residence at the Mahikeng campus.

Damages at other institutions since last week include:

  • A university vehicle, the graduation office and an office in the hospitality department that was petrol-bombed at the Durban University of Technology, following grievances about the recent student representative council elections. Windows were also broken on Monday;
  • Six vehicles, including three buses, at the University of Zululand which were torched last Sunday night, resulting in damage estimated to run into several million rands;
  • Doors and windows of the Great Hall at the University of the Witwatersrand; and
  • Two glass doors at the Sol Plaatje University in Northern Cape.

Several universities were not damaged during the recent protest action.

Bheki Hlophe, spokesperson for the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) in Durban: “MUT has never been affected by the FeesMustFall campaign because of a strong stakeholder engagement programme that starts with parents at the beginning of each year.

“Support staff from finance set up computers so that [the child of] every parent could leave the institution knowing exactly how much they owe MUT.”

The University of Venda, Walter Sisulu University, the Central University of Technology, the University of the Western Cape, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and Vaal University of Technology this week confirmed that they had not suffered any damage recently.

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