Nomarashiya Caluza, council chairperson of the University of Zululand (UniZulu), says the institution has been unable to build more student accommodation because it does not have a title deed for the land it’s built on.
Caluza said building of additional residences at the KwaDlangezwa campus was supposed to have started in April last year but it has not happened because the university has been engaged in a four-year dispute over construction on the land.
Caluza said the university did not have a right to build on land that does not belong to it and that there are still talks with the Mkhwanazi traditional authority for UniZulu to get a title deed for the land.
Caluza revealed this at a press briefing on Monday morning in Durban. Minister of Higher Education, Training and Science Blade Nzimande was also in attendance to discuss his meeting on Friday with UniZulu’s management and council.
Nzimande said despite the institution turning 60 next year, the issue of land ownership was yet to be resolved because the university was built on tribal trust land.
“I have agreed to call a meeting between the relevant ministers and the traditional authorities to find a solution and expedite the transfer of land to the university,” Nzimande said.
The meeting between Nzimande and UniZulu’s council and management comes after student protests last week about the safety of students staying off-campus residence. A student was shot inside his room at one of these residences allegedly by criminals known as amadabuka who terrorise students living off-campus.
The protest brought the community of KwaDlangezwa to a standstill with students shutting down roads and allegedly setting a satellite police station alight. The university has since suspended academic activities.
Besides their safety, students have also beamoned the poor living conditions that they are subjected to at these off-campus residences.
In April, the Mail & Guardian visited KwaDlangezwa to assess the living conditions for students there.
The squalid, dilapidated flats go for R400 to R450 a month and some of them are in yards without fences. Students have to use unsanitary and dangerous pit toilets and makeshift communal bathrooms.
At the time, students raised concerns about their safety, telling the M&G how amadabuka break into their rooms stealing valuables such as laptops at gunpoint. The students said there are better off-campus residences, but these are far from the campus and expensive.
Nzimande said the university only houses 5 560 students — which is just over 30% of its student population — and the rest of the students live-off campus in the surrounding community.
“The university reported that the majority of its students are living off-campus, and face security issues on a daily basis. Ideally the university aims to house 80% of its students in on-campus or off-campus accredited accommodation that is safe and of quality that will support university learning,” Nzimande said, adding that he has asked UniZulu to work with the department to develop a plan for the next six to ten years that will result in 80% of the students staying on campus or near campus but in dignified residences.
He said that his department will also be working with other historically disadvantaged universities to put in similar plans to deal with student accommodation in rural context where there is little availability of off-campus student housing.
UniZulu has already received an amount of R235-million which will see the construction of 3 500 new student beds over the next three years, he said.
However, Nzimande said attending to the infrastructural needs of the university will not solve the problems of crime and violence.
“The problems of violence are much deeper and require all members of the university community, students, staff, management, and surrounding communities and businesses to work together… The safety of students at UniZulu is intrinsically linked to issues related to its location and relationship with the surrounding communities in KwaDlangezwa.”
On Thursday, Police Minister Bheki Cele also visited KwaDlangezwa to meet with university management. Lirandzu Themba, the minister’s spokesperson, told Newzroom Afrika that one of the solutions agreed upon at the meeting was for more police to patrol the area particularly around the times students staying off-campus are likely to be mugged.
At Monday’s press briefing, Nzimande said that in a meeting with Universities South Africa about violence at universities, an agreement was reached to gather information on the status of safety and security on campuses across the country. The national forum of vice-chancellors further undertook to identify urgent matters to address at individual institutions.
Nzimande also offered his condolences to the family of Durban University of Technology (DUT) student Sandile Ndlovu. Ndlovu was stabbed in the head in a lecture hall at DUT’s Steve Biko campus. Ndlovu, who has been on life support due to extensive brain injuries he sustained during the attack, died on Saturday.
Nzimande said he welcomed the decision by the university to suspend its head of security whom Nzimande said had the responsibility to ensure that there are proper security measures on campus.
Ndlovu’s attack prompted students to embark on a protest calling for DUT to terminate its contract with the private security company.
The protest also led to the attack of a security guard last week by students who poured petrol on him, threatening to set him on fire. The guard sustained injuries and was rushed to hospital. The nine students have been charged with attempted murder — among other things — but are yet to appear in court.