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South Africa: At least 3 universities shut down following student protests

South Africa: At least 3 universities shut down following student protests

South Africa

South Africa’s North-West University is the latest institution to shut down indefinitely following an outbreak of violence.

At least three South African universities have been closed this week after a new wave of student protests that saw buildings torched over high tuition fees and allegations of racism.

At the North-West University’s Mafikeng campus, buildings were torched on Wednesday night, including a science centre and an administration building which held student records.

University spokesman Koos Degenaar said the trouble started after some students disrupted the inauguration of a new student council.

Defying a court order, a suspended student leader – part of a dissolved student council calling for the removal of Afrikaans as a teaching language – entered the university and addressed his supporters, the AP reports.

Private security officers reportedly tried to disperse the crowd using rubber bullets and tear gas as students threw stones at them.

President Jacob Zuma has condemned the violence saying “the burning of university buildings at a time when we are prioritising the education of our youth is inexplicable and can never be condoned.”

He added that “no amount of anger should drive students to burn their own university and deny themselves and others education. Grievances should be handled in a peaceful manner”.

Earlier this week, a protest at the University of Pretoria over the use of Afrikaans led to clashes between black and white students, also forcing the university to shut down.

University spokeswoman Anna-Retha Bouwer told the AFP “the university is currently meeting with various student bodies and stakeholders to address the issues affecting learning.”

Racial tension also flared up at the Free State University in Bloemfontein when a rugby match was interrupted earlier this week. The Free State is the heartland of Afrikaners.

Black protesters walked in a line across the pitch during the game, before hundreds of white spectators ran on and a mass brawl erupted.