Pretoria – The Vice Chancellor of the University of Pretoria, said the university will adopt a zero tolerance to violence and crime when the institution opens its doors next week.
“Given what happened, we have taken additional security measures and we have taken time to work with the South African Police Service and we are saying enough is enough,” she said.
“We commit to peaceful engagements but we cannot have disruptions to the academic programme. We cannot have intimidations, we cannot have threats levelled to students, staff and anyone else who want to be part of this.”
Students at the university have been protesting over its language policy. At least 27 people were arrested last week Friday for public violence and they appeared in court on Monday. Charges against three of them were dropped, leaving only 24 students to stand trial. Their case was postponed to April 7. The university has been closed due to the ongoing student protests and violence.
The University’s proposal to offer all in English classes comes days after protests against its language policy, the university announced: “Following many queries, the University wishes to clarify that the proposed way forward on the language policy is that all lectures should be offered in English only.
“To promote multilingualism and student success, it is proposed that Afrikaans and Sepedi be used to provide additional support to students.
“Changing the language policy is a statutory process. These proposals have been supported by consensus of the senate and will be considered by the council. Any changes to the language policy also have to be submitted to the minister of higher education and training.”
Dozens of students were arrested for protesting at the university’s Groenkloof and Hatfield campuses last week.
De la Rey said she had been meeting with different structures at the institution to find an amicable solution to issues raised and to ensure that the academic programme could return to normal. But she vowed that the institution would use its authority to deal with troublemakers.
“We will employ an approach of zero tolerance. That means we will use all our internal procedures as relevant. If an act is a crime, we are going to treat it as a crime. We have internal process for transgressions of our code of conduct but if something is a crime, it must be dealt with as a crime,” she said.
De la Rey added that the safety of students and staff was of paramount importance and they would not compromise on it. Additional security would be brought in. She also mentioned that plans would be communicated to students on what would be done to catch up missed classes.
“We’ve had to revise the academic timetable to ensure our students are not disadvantaged educationally by the disruptions of this week,” she said.
De la Rey called on students to desist from vandalising and damaging property. She said university buildings were public property and destroying them added pressure on backlog of maintenance work that still had to be carried out.
The comments come after the burning of the science building at the North West University during a student protest on Wednesday.
“We know we have a backlog of maintenance of buildings at universities especially at old universities like this one where we are trying to modernise and upgrade,” she said.
“We have student accommodation that dates back 100 years. That requires maintenance and we need to build new ones. Now we are sitting with a situation where we are destroying public property and that has to be paid for. This is alarming.”