Africa

South Africa's Fort Hare closed after violent protests

  • 13 February 2013
  • From the section Africa
Students protesting at Fort Hare University, South Africa - taken by Sithandiwe Velaphi, The New Age Image copyright The New Age
Image caption Students barricaded the campus entrance and blocked staff from getting to work

South Africa's Fort Hare University has shut down its main campus following violent student protests over a 90% rise in residence fees.

University officials said the intimidation of staff and the destruction of property had resulted in the campus' closure until next Tuesday.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse students burning tyres on Monday.

Fort Hare was once a famous university, where African leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe studied.

Twenty-one students were arrested for public violence and released on warning after Monday's protest at the university's campus in the town of Alice in Eastern Cape province.

Students barricaded the campus entrance and blocked staff from getting to work.

Mvuyo Tom, the university 's vice-chancellor, says they may be forced to close the 97-year-old institution if the violent protest continued.

The university obtained an interdict to stop students from further disrupting activities and vandalising property on Monday.

Student Representative Council (SRC) leader at the university, Andile Gama, denied that the students protested in defiance of the court order.

"We are planning to appeal the interdict because the management has not answered to our grievances."

Students have been demanding a reversal of a 90% rise in the university's residence fees.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party has condemned the closure of the campus.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption African leaders like Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela got their first taste of politics at Fort Hare

"The 90% increase in residence fees is unacceptable as most of the students are from poor family backgrounds," said DA regional leader Athol Trollip.

Mr Trollip said they were also shocked to hear of the living conditions of the students.

"Four students cannot be expected to share a room, which has been originally created for two students," he said.

Fort Hare University is one South Africa's oldest learning institutions and carries a great deal of history.

Many anti-apartheid activists, as well as regional leaders who fought colonial rule, got their first taste of politics decades ago as students studying there.

Mr Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president, was expelled from Fort Hare in 1940 for political activism and Mr Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, won a scholarship to study there in 1949.

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