Durban – Police Minister, Bheki Cele has bowed down to pressure from protesting University of Zululand students who demanded he meet with them following a week of violent protests that saw students torch a police station, block roads and prevent neigbouring schools from opening following the shooting of a student during a house robbery off campus.
The shooting incident sparked a mass protest by UniZulu students who this week went on the rampage. They set a satellite police station in KwaDlangezwa alight, blockaded the R102 with tyres, trees and stones demanding that the university improve security off campus. The students also disrupted teaching at three local high schools after convincing pupils at the schools there to join their protest.
Chief among the student demands was that Cele meets with them so they could tell him their issues with security in and around the campus.
On Thursday, Cele acceded to the students demands for a meeting.
In a statement after the meetings the minister’s office said that Cele condemned the school closures and arson calling it unacceptable. “This is an act of criminality, those schools must be opened and pupils can’t be punished for issues they know nothing about. The authority of the state cant be disrespected, no matter what the complaint is, those who have burnt the police station must be brought to book,” he said.
In an effort to address the students concerns and resolve safety challenges on and off campus, Cele held a meeting with Transport, Community Safety MEC in KwaZulu-Natal, Bheki Ntuli attended by the institutions management council and head of security as well as the local Traditional Authority and local police management.
According to the police ministry, the university has admitted to facing security challenges such as inadequate access control to the campus and environmental designs such as poor lighting on campus and on roads used by students to access the campus from nearby off campus places of residence. The institution also admits that its surveillance system is not up to scratch.
"Minister Cele has called on a strengthened working relationship between the university and the police service," the police ministry said in a statement
"He’s encouraged by the local SAPS task team that has been set up to look into crimes committed against students. The team has already produced results and has arrested wanted suspects who have been terrorising the student community. While the University management says its working on an integrated security plan of action to improve their internal security, however it’s raised concerns that 80 percent of their student population lives outside campus grounds and often embark in risky behaviour which compromises their safety. General Cele has called for an urgent follow up meeting which will see students form part of the discussions to combat crime in the area alongside University management, local traditional authority and landlords renting out their properties to students".
The university remains closed.