On March 1, 2018, students at the University of Zululand reportedly set fire to a campus building and other property during a protest over allegedly unpaid student meal allowances. University officials closed the campus temporarily in response to the incident and police arrested 32 students.
Reports indicate that some student protesters set fire to a bookshop and a police vehicle at the KwaDlangezwa campus of the university. Student protesters also entered lecture halls and disrupted classes. Police reportedly arrested 32 students and charged them with public violence and burglary. Following the incident, university officials ordered student residing on campus to vacate and closed the campus until further notice.
On March 5, authorities released 13 students of the arrested students on bail. Students reported they received their meal allowances and were now allowed to communicate with the university management. A few days later, the remaining 19 students were released on bail.
On March 13, the campus reopened and classes resumed. With its reopening, university management reportedly increased campus security and revised its rules for entry onto campus in an effort to prevent future violent unrest.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about destructive protests on campus. While students have the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, that right does not extend to destruction of campus property or disturbing classes. Campus expression must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with university values including social responsibility. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, destructive actions on campus undermine academic freedom and institutional autonomy.