Fort Hare going ahead with centenary celebrations despite Wednesday night’s violence

BY ASAVELA FEKEMA - MAY 19, 2016

Despite protesting students set a building on fire on Wednesday night and an unknown number reportedly being arrested during clashes with police, the University of Fort Hare on Thursday morning said that its centenary celebrations will go on as planned.

As it stands the Fort Hare Vice Chancellor, Dr Mvuyo Tom said he was is in constant communication with The Presidency and the Department of Higher Education about the incident.

Violence erupted after Wednesday evening’s meeting between management and student representatives failed to satisfy about 16 demands from the students, which led to the burning of tyres, pelting of cars and students breaking into various buildings as well as setting one on fire.

The main demand on the memorandum was the signing off of meal cards by the institution before the centenary celebrations.

However, student developer, Sibusiso Ngcengwa, said they did not understand why the students resorted to vandalising buildings, because in the meeting, the university management had acceded to all their demands.

“It is to my surprise that the students have vandalised the university after we had an agreement in the meeting of the way forward,” said Ngcengwa.

Police have been on guard since Wednesday night, making sure that the students do not burn anymore buildings. A number of people have also been cleaning up some things ahead of the centenary celebrations on Friday.

The damage to the institution is estimated to cost millions of Rands. The university’s ITEC and the Van Schaik book shop were also broken into and books as well as computers and tablets looted.

Students also tried to burn down a marquee that is being erected at the university's grounds for dignitaries after chasing away the contractors.

SRC President, Bulali Rawana, said it is unfortunate that the event has happened the way it did, as student leadership they do not condone such violence as it will not solve any problems.

“The reality is that our problems must find solutions, however we are committed in finding means to these solutions without using violence,” said Rawana.

“We have seen that there are third parties in this situation, political parties such as the DA, ANC and the EFF have an interest of stopping the celebrations.  All these third forces were not here in January, when we were finding solutions.”

According to The Presidency Friday's celebrations "will acknowledge the role that the university has played in educating Africans. It will celebrate the values and traditions that made the university to be Africa’s most respected institution of higher learning".

Alumni from Fort Hare include former President Nelson Mandela; ANC president Oliver Tambo; Botswana’s first democratic president Seretse Khama; President Julius Nyerere of the United Republic of Tanzania; Pan-African Congress leader Robert Sobukwe; the first President of the Republic of Zambia President Kenneth Kaunda, and the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe.

President Jacob Zuma is expected to give the keynote speech at the university.

Image: Matshidiso Madia via Twitter