Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) learnt with shock and outrage the news that the Procurement Building on South Campus was petrol bombed on Saturday night, and graffiti about ‘free higher education’ and ‘fees must fall’ painted on the walls of the building.
The matter is under police investigation and follows two arson attacks on buildings on the South Campus last year.
The University condemns in the strongest terms the latest arson attack on its property.
The University will take every necessary legal measure to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book and call on all our stakeholders to rise against violent elements threatening the very existence of the University.
We reject criminal acts masquerading behind political claims for free higher education.
Vice-Chancellor Derrick Swartz said: “This is simply unacceptable, blatantly criminal and has no place in a democratic order. We know this does not represent the vast majority of those campaigning for ‘free’ higher education, but there should be no ambiguity about how utterly wrong this is. We should firmly reject the notion often put forward by apologists that violence is somehow justified by existence of structural violence such as poverty, inequality and unemployment. In a democratic order, it has not legal or moral basis. One cannot live by the rights of our Constitution during the day, and, when it suits you, seek to live outside of its obligations by night. Once you embark on this dangerous and highly flawed reasoning, it means any acts of wanton violence, including taking of lives, burning of libraries and hurting innocent people can be justified in an inescapably circular logic. And of course, as history shows, the very same violence is often turned against you. We must urgently bring to an end this spectre of violence before it is too late.”
Arson attacks on public buildings whose purpose it is to provide education to society are a blatant affront to democracy and a direct attack against South Africa’s Constitution. The University is of the belief that a handful of violent elements have inserted themselves among legitimate student organizations and whose aim it is to sow a climate of fear and insecurity. We call on all legitimate student formations and their leaders to publicly distance themselves from this and expose these criminals.
We furthermore call on the SAPS to swiftly arrest the culprits and for the courts to impose the harshest sentence on guilty parties.
The University will immediately put into place a range of extraordinary measures, starting on Monday, to patrol all buildings, tighten physical security and access, including special steps to control movement during after-hour periods, especially around critical infrastructure.
We will also be setting up a special Hotline for anyone with information – whose identity will be protected – which could lead to the identification for prosecution of individuals involved in this criminal act. Further details will follow.
We also require all students and staff to carry their NMMU identity cards with them at all times, visibly displayed, as from Monday, 13 February 2017.
Communication and Stakeholder Liaison
Tel: +27 (0) 41 504 1111
Fax: +27 (0) 41 504 2574 / 2731
PO Box 77000, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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