/ 20 April 2023

Gun-wielding thugs terrorise students at UKZN’s Durban campus

University of KwaZulu-Natal. Photo: Supplied

University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) students in Durban are under siege from gun-wielding thugs who rob them of their cellphones, laptops and money, student leaders at Howard College said on Wednesday.

Student representative council chairperson Andile Shange said the attacks were a concern because they were taking place on the campus premises, with no security in sight to stop the violence. 

Shange said that last week, gunmen stormed the library.

“They stole laptops, cellphones and anything they saw that was valuable. All this happened in broad daylight at gunpoint. The university is aware of our predicament, but we are told that there is no money to beef up the insourced security personnel.”

He said there have been similar incidents at the Westville campus in recent weeks.

“This is a crisis and more harm will be done if this is not attended to. Students feel like they are sacrificial lambs because they have no one to fight for them inside their campuses.” 

A student, who asked to remain unnamed, said robberies were also taking place in residences. 

He said that last year, students had gone through the same ordeal, with “no significant intervention” from the university.

“I have not heard of any cases as yet this year at the Pietermaritzburg campus, but last year there were a lot of cases. 

“What is confusing is that we do not know how these criminals are able to access our residence and campus without student cards. If you do not have a student card, you need to go through the security so that you can gain entry, after you have explained to the security why you are actually there,” he said.

He said a thorough investigation was needed to establish how the criminals gained access to the campus residence.

“The only thing that makes sense right now is that there might be someone or some people inside the university who are giving out the information to these criminals,” said the student. 

UKZN response

The university’s spokesperson, Normah Zondo, said management was concerned about the recent incidents of crime on campus and said the safety of students and staff remained a priority. 

“Unfortunately, crime is a reality that all South Africans face and the university is not immune to that reality. In the early hours of Friday, April 14 some students were robbed of their belongings at the Malherbe Main Library on the Howard College campus. 

“According to reports, three unknown males entered the library and proceeded to rob five students of their belongings including three laptops and five cell phones.

“The incident has been reported to the police. Affected students are receiving ongoing counselling.”

Zondo said that Risk Management Services, the Crime Prevention Unit (CPU) and the police were working closely to stop the attacks. 

She said the university had also increased patrols and put in place additional security.  Strategic areas on campuses were monitored by CCTV cameras, she said, while all entry points had access control and required a valid card for entry. 

“We understand that the recent incidents have caused concern among our staff and students and we want to assure you that we take this matter seriously. We urge everyone to remain vigilant,” said Zondo. 

The provincial police did not respond to queries by the time of publication. — Additional reporting by Lethiwe Makhanya
This story was first published in The Witness.