Repair bill for South Africa student protests hits £14.5 million

Opposition calls on government to help meet funding shortfall

April 18, 2016
South Africa flag

Violent protests at South African universities have resulted in a nationwide repair bill that stands at 300 million rand (£14.5 million) to date, official figures show.

More than half of the total (R151 million) relates to disorder at North-West University, which had an administration block and science centre torched on its Mahikeng campus in February, forcing the suspension of academic activities for almost a month.

The figures were released by Blade Nzimande, South Africa’s higher education minister, after several months of protests triggered by fee increases and allegations of institutional racism.

Other institutions with significant repair bills among the 14 listed by Mr Nzimande were the University of KwaZulu-Natal (R82 million) and the University of the Western Cape (R46.5 million).

It is not clear how much of the cost will be covered by insurance payouts, the minister said.

Belinda Bozzoli, the shadow higher education minister, said that “radical student groups” had “directed money away from the legitimate needs of thousands of poor students”.

“While some of the damages will be covered by insurers, universities will desperately require financial assistance from the state to repair and rebuild already overstretched infrastructure,” Professor Bozzoli said. “Without additional funding to restore operations, the ability of universities to provide quality education to students will be severely compromised.”

Some of South Africa’s most prestigious universities have also been the scene of violent protests. The University of Cape Town put its repair bill at R3.2 million, while the figure for the University of the Witwatersrand is R1.4 million.

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