SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 11, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of KwaZulu-Natal

Region & Country:Southern Africa | South Africa

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 11, 2020, individuals allegedly set fire to a building at the University of KwaZulu-Natal amidst protests over student fees.

Beginning on January 27, 2020, students from a number of South African universities have held protests to demand increased student funding, the cancellation of students’ historical debt, and that students carrying debt be permitted to enroll. Several of the protests have led to violent clashes between students and authorities and the destruction of campus property.

On March 11, individuals set fire to the UKZN campus auditorium. As of this report, they have not been identified. The Student Representative Council (SRC) reported that they did not know who committed the arson or the reason behind it. According to reports, no protests occurred on March 11 before or during the fire. Police have reportedly opened an investigation into the incident.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the targeted destruction of campus property. While students and other protesters have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly. The destruction of campus property harms the ability of higher education communities to safely and adequately conduct research, teaching, and other academic activities. State authorities have a responsibility to protect higher education communities, investigate threats, and hold perpetrators responsible. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.