HARARE - Thousands of University of Zimbabwe (UZ) students yesterday demonstrated at the Harare campus in solidarity with striking lecturers and deteriorating standards at the institution of higher learning.
University authorities immediately shut down the institution, notifying students to vacate the campus.
“The University of Zimbabwe is on recess from 17 March, 2015 to Tuesday 24 March, 2015 in order to address issues that require immediate attention,” reads a circular sent to the students.
“All students are expected to vacate the halls of residence and the university campus with immediate effect and by no later than 3 pm today, March 17.”
When the Daily News arrived at the campus, hundreds of placard-waving students had assembled outside the administration block.
They called for the immediate resignation of vice chancellor Levi Nyagura.
UZ security details had a torrid time trying to control the protesting students. Anti-riot police was called in to quash the protests and maintain peace and order.
The protesting students stormed the Senior Common Room — a dining hall for lecturers. This was after the students’ canteen was closed. Apparently, cooks were also on strike.
The students also barricaded a truck which had brought bread.
Gilbert Mutubuki, Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) president, said students were demonstrating because of the deteriorating standards at the university.
“Today, there is no food at the university, the chefs are on strike, the lecturers are on strike and all departments are closed,” he said. “What is this? We paid fees to learn and not this. So that is why we are demonstrating. Students who stay in campus pay something like $900 and today they do not have any food. We pay our fees but the money is misused by the university leaders. We demand that Nyagura resigns immediately.
“They are busy flying people to Victoria Falls for President Mugabe’s birthday bash. They donated to the president’s party yet workers at UZ have not been paid. This is a clear abuse of our money and we will not accept that.”
The Zinasu president said the government should brace for more demonstrations at other state universities.
“Tomorrow, there will be demonstrations at Great Zimbabwe University and also at Midlands State University,” he warned. “There will be demonstrations at all universities in the country. Mugabe and his government have failed us.”
Gift Ostallos, deputy president of UZ’s Students Representative Council, vowed that students will continue demonstrating until lecturers are fully paid their salaries and bonuses.
“We will continue demonstrating until the government intervenes and pays lecturers and other non-academic staff members. We plan to march to Higher Education minister (Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri)’s office because things are seriously bad at this university,” Ostallos said.
Dennis Rwafa, UZ public relations officer, could not immediately comment on the matter. He was not taking calls from the Daily News and had not responded to written questions sent to him.
Lecturers and non-academic staff at all state universities are on strike over government’s failure to pay salaries and last year’s bonus.