THE South African government (today) Thursday today assured the country that the high-profile centenary celebrations, which Zimbabwean President Mugabe will attend tomorrow, at Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape would continue as planned, after 10 students were arrested following a night of wanton violence and destruction on campus.
On Wednesday night, protesting students burnt tyres on the streets and the the main gate of Alice Campus, set a tent alight, and looted and vandalised some buildings. The students claimed university management was failing to meet their demands to release grants for meal allowances.
In a statement today the government said the celebrations set for the Alice campus on Friday and which would feature a number of dignitaries, including President Jacob Zuma .
“Security agencies are on the ground at Fort Hare to ensure that the centenary celebrations are held in a safe and secure environment,” government said.
Meanwhile the interim convener of Zimbabwe People First Lawrence Mavhaire, has urged University authorities to withdraw an invitation to Mugabe, who is also expected to make a speech as an alumnus.
”We urge the university to take heed of our advice and withdraw the invitation extended to President Mugabe and additionally request that the funds for the trip and other unnecessary trips are channeled to pay the accounts in arrears for all Zimbabwean students,” says Mavhaire.
It was not clear at the time of going to press yesterday, what action the Zimbabweans were going to take, should Mugabe still make an appearance at the event, amid allegations by the Student Representative Council (SRC) on Thursday said its protest over funding issues had been hijacked by “criminal elements” who were trying to disrupt the institution’s centenary celebrations.
Mugabe is a graduate of the university, which opened in 1916.
However the SA government says the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority will continue to update on further arrests and prosecution of suspects.
Fort Hare spokesperson, Athi Zembe, said: “ Nothing has been announced that plans have changed with regard to centenary proceedings, so all will go according to plan.” –ANA additional reporting by Patience Rusere