The Higher Education Minister on Monday urged the University of Zululand (Unizulu) to urgently start work on building 3500 new bed spaces using the R230mn that his department had recently made available.
Blade Nzimande said plans for infrastructure development also included the refurbishment of current stock at the institution. “I have agreed that the university should start procurement for the first stage of construction as soon as possible.”
He said he met with Unizulu council and management Friday to address several issues, including the assault of a student in an off-campus residence and subsequent violent protests by students.
The students were angry at the lack of security at off-campus residences following the shooting of Msawenkosi Nxumalo, a 23-year-old student who was robbed of his laptop and cellphone.
On Monday last week, students burnt tyres and branches to block roads in and around the KwaDlangezwa campus, including the R102 and N2 freeway.
Schools in the vicinity of the campus were also damaged and disrupted.
A satellite police station near the campus was also set alight during Monday night’s protests. The campus was closed Tuesday and students were told to vacate the premises.
Nzimande strongly condemned the routine destruction of property during student protests. This deprived future generations, he said.
About 30 students were arrested following the torching of the station.
The safety at Unizulu was linked to its location and the surrounding community, the Higher Education minister pointed out.
But he added, only about 30 percent of students could have their accommodation needs met by the university itself, and the rest had to rent rooms in the nearby communities.
Sometimes, he said those renting to students set up “shack like structures” with little or no security, which were not accredited by the university.
He said that in 2020, Unizulu would be celebrating 68 years of existence. Despite this, the land on which the institution operated was still tribal.
It was imperative that the land be transferred to the university if costly investments were to be made.
He called a meeting with relevant stakeholders that included the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, ministry of police and traditional authorities to discuss the issue.
No formal application for Afrikaans-only Institution
Nzimande also used the opportunity to caution trade union Solidarity to desist from calling its new planned higher education institution a ‘university.’
He said the current legal framework didn’t permit private institutions to be called universities.
The union must ensure that its planned Afrikaans-private facility did not discriminate on the basis of race as this could result in it not being approved in the first place, Nzimande said.