ANC condemns latest unrest at South Africa’s universities

Classes suspended at Pretoria and Free State following clashes over language and outsourcing

February 24, 2016
South Africa flag

South Africa’s universities have been hit by a fresh round of unrest, which forced the suspension of lectures at two institutions.

The ruling African National Congress said it was “outraged by signs of deteriorating race relations and racial tensions”, particularly at the universities of Pretoria and Free State.

At Pretoria, classes were suspended after dozens of students were arrested in violent clashes over the university’s use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

Cheryl de la Rey, Pretoria’s vice-chancellor, said that the university was considering making English its “primary language of instruction”, with Afrikaans being used to provide additional support for students. But some students said that they would not end their protest until Afrikaans – which is seen as marginalising poorer, black students – is dropped.

At Free State, all academic activities were suspended after demonstrators who disrupted a rugby match in protest at the outsourcing of staff roles were allegedly assaulted by spectators and players.

These are not the only universities to have faced disruption in recent weeks. At the University of Cape Town, students campaigning for black rights torched a bus, broke into residences and destroyed artworks, vice-chancellor Max Price said.

Zizi Kodwa, an ANC spokesman, said that the party “strongly condemn[ed] such acts of violence regardless of the circumstances and the race and issues of those who participate in them”.

“A profound achievement of student protests in recent times has been the solidarity developed between students, black and white,” Mr Kodwa said. “Students must jealously guard and advance these gains, not turn on one another.

“Protest action by any group should not hinder on the rights of others and equally protect their right to differ.”

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