By Staff Reporter
QWAQWA – Two female students from the University of Free State’s QwaQwa campus appeared in the Phuthaditjhaba magistrate court on March 15, on charges of public violence and malicious damage to property.
The accused Nyakallo Mazibuko and Nondumiso Shezi were arrested on March 14 and released on a warning. They are expected to be back in court on March 25.
According to police spokesperson in Thabo Mofutsanyana Warrant officer Mmako Mophiring, the pair was arrested by public order police at UFS-Qwaqwa campus on Monday, 14 after they allegedly damaged university property and barricading R57 road for almost six hours. They were demonstrating their dissatisfaction against the university and the National Students Financial Aid Scheme NSFAS’ decision to pay their accommodation allowances directly to their landlords instead of depositing the funds to students’ accounts like it was previously done.
“On 14 March 2022 the students at the Campus got into violent demonstrations at the University of the Free State branch in Qwaqwa. The police engaged them but they ended up blocking the main road for traffic, and pelted the police with stones and caused malicious damage to state vehicles and other properties within the campus. They were finally dispersed by police and started burning tyres outside R57,” Mophiring said.
Some students who reside off campus went on the rampage and barricaded Botjhabela village road near Engen garage and Papalou restaurant, accusing the university management of reportedly changing the NSFAS system of paying accommodation allowances directly to them.
Meanwhile, during a media briefing held on March 15 at UFS main campus Vice Chancellor Francis Peterson said NSFAS this year decided allowances will be paid directly to the landlords after it picked up fraudulent activities where accommodation prices were inflated. The students were not happy with this and started the protest that ended up in criminal activities.
“This is an act of criminality and we must deal with this culture very quickly and holistically as leaders of society, or we’re going to find it very difficult to produce a graduate that is going to make a meaningful difference to our society.
“As the university of the Free State, we continue to engage with our students and in fact in this particular case, we have had engagements with the student council, the campus student council and all of them supported our approach to dealing with all challenges relating to NSFAS and also the private accommodation allowances and were not party to what happened to our university at QwaQwa campus.”
Petersen added that in line with its internal process, the university will institute immediate suspensions.
“We will in parallel run a disciplinary hearing process to show that we do not tolerate this behaviour. We will argue for severe sanctions that could probably lead to expulsion of the students. We have to follow that hard line in this particular case because we cannot allow the culture of criminality.”