North West University in South Africa has decided to close its Mafikeng campus for a “considerable period of time” after black students had burnt down several buildings, including the main administration building containing all of the university’s records, according to a statement posted on the university’s Facebook page. The students were apparently angered at the appointment of a new students’ representative council which did not contain a suspended student, Linda (Benz) Mabengwane.
The full statement issued by the university is quoted underneath.
As a result of widespread fire damage caused to various buildings on the Mafikeng Campus on 24 February, the campus has been closed indefinitely. Students were advised to leave the campus immediately for their own safety, and return home, as it is likely to take a considerable period of time to restore operations. Students will be given at least a month’s notice of the re-opening of the campus.
The events unfolded as follows:
On the morning of 24 February, an event was scheduled during which the newly appointed Campus Student Representative Council (CSRC) was inaugurated. Just before the proceedings was about to start, a group of students, allegedly from the EFF student command and supporters of the dissolved CSRC, started to disrupt the event. The initial demonstrations started outside the Great Hall, after which they proceeded inside, and disrupted the event by singing and shouting while speakers were addressing the students.
After the event, the temporary suspended CSRC president, Mr Linda (Benz) Mabengwane arrived on campus and addressed a group of students. Security deployed on campus then dispersed the crowd, which led to clashes between them and students. Security had to use teargas and rubber bullets to get the situation under control. The students were pelting security with stones, which led to further reactions by them.
During the late afternoon, the situation flared up again and incidents were reported where students set fire to a motorcycle belonging to a staff member as well as a trailer belonging to the security company. It was also reported that the staff cafeteria was looted.
Students went on to set fire to various buildings on the campus, of which the administration building was the main target. This building was completely destroyed, along with all official records. Damages are estimated to run into millions of rands.
Arrests have apparently been made, but no formal account can be given in this regard yet.
Rumours have been spread about a student that was killed as a result of the intervention by security, but this is devoid of all truth. It is however suspected that students were hurt during the clashes with security, but no confirmed information in this regard is available at this stage.