Protests Continue at South African Universities

September 27, 2016

Some South African universities remain closed amid continuing protests over tuition rates, which have in some cases involved violence.

Among those universities that have closed, the University of Pretoria moved up its upcoming recess period and plans to reopen Oct. 10. In a statement Monday the university said protesters blockaded entrances and disrupted classes. A statement from Pretoria’s vice chancellor and principal, Cheryl de la Rey, also described “incidents of arson and other violent behavior.”

Other universities that have suspended classes or have moved up scheduled breaks include Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Rhodes University, Tshwane University of Technology and the Universities of Cape Town and Witwatersrand.

The latter institution, known as Wits, has suspended all university operations until further notice and plans to poll staff and students on whether to reopen on Monday “if the appropriate security measures are in place.”

"If the majority of students and staff support the reopening on Monday, 3 October 2016, the university will call upon government and the police to meet their obligations to protect the university’s property and to safeguard the lives of students and staff," the university's statement on the matter said.

Three petrol bombs were found on the Wits campus over the weekend. Eyewitness News reported Monday that a cleaning worker died after inhaling fumes from a fire extinguisher allegedly released last week by student protesters in a Wits residence hall. The university said in a statement expressing its sympathies that the worker had been "rushed to the Campus Health and Wellness Centre and then taken to hospital, where the worker was treated for a few days. The worker was discharged from hospital and then passed away."

The university said the cause of death has not been determined.

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