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#FeesMustFall caused R58m in damages at UWC



UWC was the hardest hit in the Western Cape during the #FeesMustFall protests. Picture: Patrick Louw

Cape Town – The University of the Western Cape (UWC) was the hardest hit in the province during the rolling #FeesMustFall protests over the past two years, racking up a bill of R58 million in damages.

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande announced that the damage to buildings and infrastructure at universities around the country was expected to reach R1 billion.

Nzimande met university vice-chancellors this week to, among other things, plan the way forward to ensure a smooth 2017 academic year after what had been a turbulent period in the higher education sector.

UWC spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said 2015 had been the most catastrophic year in the university’s history when a number of buildings went up in flames, costing the institution R46 544 446.

The damage done last year is estimated at around R12m, Tyhalibongo said on Wednesday.

UWC’s damages bill was the second highest in the country after North West University, which stood at R151m.

Meanwhile, UCT was slightly better off having suffered just over R4m in damages over the past two years.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the damage to property due to protest action at the beginning of last year amounted to R3.2m.

“A Jammie shuttle bus and a bakkie, which were both used by students, were burnt, while vice-chancellor Max Price’s office in the Bremner Building was petrol-bombed,” Mhlanga said.

A number of historic paintings of priceless cultural and historic value were destroyed, statues and signage were damaged by vandalism, and a number of windows were smashed, he said.

Mhlanga said UCT incurred further losses of R1.1m during the unrest which began in September when smoke – from vehicles which were allegedly set alight by protesting students – infiltrated the specialised air filtration system of the Geological Sciences building.

“The damage has been repaired. The vehicles have not yet been replaced,” Mhlanga said.

Stellenbosch University, which experienced fewer disruptions compared to other institutions, declared it had suffered just over R1m in damages last year.

In 2015, the university suffered R350 000 in damages.

Cape Peninsula University of Technology spokesperson Lauren Kansley said assessments of lost and damaged assets were continuing “and we don’t have a final figure yet although it is many multi-millions”.

Two buildings at CPUT’s Bellville campus were severely damaged by fire in October last year, where three security guards were injured.

CPUT’s Short Courses Centre at its Cape Town campus was also damaged by protesters.

Kansley said the buildings – which were rendered to mere shells of charred walls surrounded by ash and shards of glass – were yet to be repaired.



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