Student killed in 3-day riot

April 20, 2001

One student died and at least 28 were injured during three days of riots at the University of Zimbabwe last week.

Inadequate grants and political tensions were blamed for the clashes, which began on April 7 when students tried to stage a march. Police sealed the campus and used tear gas to disperse the protesters, who fought back with stones and branches and wrecked several cars. Students allege that the police used excessive force.

During rioting the following day, science student Batanayi Madzidzi died. Police said he was injured in a stampede, but students claim the police punched and kicked him while they were assaulting students who were fleeing the campus corridors. Another account said that he jumped from his second-floor window to escape riot police, who fired tear gas into his room.

Police arrested 41 students but charged only the new student president.

University of Zimbabwe vice-chancellor Graham Hill told a 2,000-strong student gathering at the weekend that police had not been invited to the university. They came "unannounced and uninvited," he said. "We grieve. We have lost a son. We are shocked."

Over the past year, government grants have dropped to a fraction of their value over the past year and are now worth almost nothing. Economic woes are also hitting the university, whose executives were told to lay off 1,000 workers to reduce its salary bill. The institution has identified 573 non-academic staff from 13 departments for immediate retrenchment.

There are also political tensions on campus, with students seen to be Movement for Democratic Change party supporters. The student union president has accused ruling party Zanu-PF militants of fanning campus violence. They accuse him of accepting MDC money to help campaign for his new leadership position.

There were also demonstrations against inadequate grant payouts at Midlands State University in Gweru, during which 50 students were arrested.

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