Protesting students in South Africa burned down several buildings at a university, forcing administrators to close the campus and telling students to leave, spokesman said Thursday
An administration block that included a science center was burned down at the North-West University’s campus in the city of Mahikeng (also called Mafikeng) on Wednesday night, said university spokesman Koos Degenaar. Student protesters also burned down the residence of a dormitory supervisor.
The violence comes as student protests have erupted on college campuses across South Africa, often aimed at pressing for lower tuition, more student housing and at eliminating statues and other artworks that for some students represent South Africa’s racist past.
On Thursday the university was quiet as students still in dorms were being evacuated, Degenaar said. The university in South Africa’s North West province is shut indefinitely.
The violence there started after a Students Representatives Council meeting was disrupted by protesters, Degenaar said.
A suspended student leader was addressing his supporters when private security tried to disperse the crowd using rubber bullets and tear gas, the university said in a statement. Students then pelted security guards with stones and burned a vehicle that belonged to the private security company, the statement said.
In chaotic scenes posted on social media, large police vehicles rolled onto the campus to restore order. Students retaliated by setting fire to campus property.
The university had previously obtained a court interdict barring disruptions on campus, in the wake of ongoing student protests throughout the country, Degenaar said.
South African President Jacob Zuma condemned violence and destruction of property by protesting students at several campuses across the country.
“The burning of university buildings at a time when we are prioritizing the education of our youth is inexplicable and can never be condoned,” Zuma said in a statement.