South Africa: Protesting Students Torch University Buildings

JOHANNESBURG ― Students were ordered on Thursday to abandon a South African university, leaving behind charred, smoldering buildings after protests turned violent.

North-West University said protesting students burned an administration building and science center at the campus in Mahikeng (also called Mafikeng) on Wednesday night.

Student protests have erupted across South Africa, often aimed at pressing for lower tuition, more student housing and erasing remnants of South Africa’s racist past.

“Students have nowhere to go. They are just roaming around the streets of Mahikeng,” said Ofentse Pilane, 24, a final-year political science student. For now, he’ll squat with friends until his parents, who live two hours away, are able to send him some money.

“International students are facing severe problems,” he said.
The university has made arrangements for students to camp at a nearby civic hall until they can find their way home, sometimes to neighboring countries, a university spokesman said.

South African President Jacob Zuma said: “No amount of anger should drive students to burn their own university and deny themselves and others education.”

In recent days, Black and White students have even come to blows over the use of Afrikaans as a teaching language, an echo of the 1976 student uprising in the Soweto township south of Johannesburg against apartheid. Those bloody protests, forcibly put put down by security forces, erupted over a rule that classes be taught in Afrikaans, considered to be the language of the White oppressor.