SA crisis leaves students penniless

November 10, 2000

Zimbabwe's financial and political crisis has left hundreds of Zimbabwean students studying at universities in South Africa penniless and battling to make ends meet.

Among the 4,000 or more affected are some 180 students at the University of Fort Hare. The students are on scholarships set up in the mid-1990s by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. Mr Mugabe obtained a degree at Fort Hare in 1951 when it was the only "black" university in southern Africa and was teaching many of the region's future political leaders.

Luthendo Bara, a spokesperson for Fort Hare, said that President Mugabe's fund should have paid R5 million (£460,150) at the beginning of the year for tuition, accommodation and meals for students. But the fund still owed R3 million by the second half of the year. "Because of Zimbabwe's problems with foreign currency, it has been paying R200,000 a month since June," Mr Bara said.

The university and its Zimbabwe student society have denied media reports that some students had resorted to begging and prostitution to survive. Some other South African institutions were able to find funds to tide over their Zimbabwean students.

British philanthropists assisted many of the 332 students stranded with no money at Rhodes University during the height of the Zimbabwe crisis earlier this year.

The University of Cape Town has proposed an African Scholars Contingency Fund as a longer-term solution for problems of this kind.

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