By ‘Masentle Makara
ROMA, Sept 20 – Over the years, the National University of Lesotho (NUL) has been shaken by violent protests.
In 2015, in 2016, in 2017 and in 2018, there have been flaming barricades, property has been destroyed, and students have been shot.
Matšeliso Thulo was brutally killed by police in 2009.
They 30-year-old political science student was shot during three days of mayhem as students protested over the non-payment of their allowances.
At least 14 other students were seriously injured during that protest.
Yesterday, an unruly mob of students went berserk in the campus protesting against the delays in payment of their allowances, and set on fire a tent put up in the Machabeng stadium for saturday’s graduations ceremony.
This event may appear exceptional, but it is not completely unprecedented.
In August 2018, for example, students embarked on class disruptions; trashing of the campus; and mounted a blockade of the main Maseru Roma road where they burned tyres and timber, obstructing the free flow of traffic.
In 2009 they set their hall, the Netherlands, on fire.
There is nothing that is funny about these practices.
But in what could be considered an irony, the SRC President Reatlehile Makateng has put the blame for the yesterday’s act of foot-shooting on the doorstep of the acting Vice Chancellor ‘Manthoto Lephoto – even though it is clear that protests have always been part of NUL’s culture.
Lephoto had a meeting with the students on Thursday morning at which she advised them against boycotting classes.
This was after the SRC had written her a letter on Wednesday warning that they were going to boycott classes if they did not receive their allowances from the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS).
She told students who gathered outside the Netherlands hall that if they insisted on boycotting classes, “then you have no reasons to be in the schools’ premises”.
It was after this meeting that the angry mob went berserk, pulled down the tent and set it on fire.
“She called the student Union (SU) and provoked them other than listening to their grievances. She categorically stated that it is either students go to classes come or they should leave the university” Makateng told The Night’s Watch on Thursday.
He added that: “Our question is simple; management do you understand students’ suffering caused by the delay in payments of their allowances?”
Makateng said some students suffered syncope due to hunger as they could not afford to buy food. Some, he added, were evicted from their apartments for failure to pay rent.
“But our Vice Chancellor is ignoring the students’ plight. All she is concerned about is the graduation ceremony,” he said.
He also took a swipe at the schizophrenic university management accusing it of issuing totally contrasting statements on the subject of delayed students’ allowances.
“The Vice Chancellor said there is no money, but the bursar said money is there but there is no list of the names of students to disburse the money to,” he said.
The rioting students were dispersed and driven out of the campus by the police, the university registrar Liteboho Maqalika-Lerotholi said in a statement following the skirmishes.
Lerotholi said management had no option but to allow the students to leave the university campus as their presence on campus posed a security risk.
“Many students were stranded because they did not have money to go to their respective homes,” Makateng said.
Part of the registrar statement read: “Management wishes to warn the organisers of this campaign to desist from their intended unlawful acts. The National University of Lesotho is an institution governed by law and rules to uphold order and good governance.
“No student is immune from the application of the law, rules and regulations governing the University; and they shall be applied where circumstances warrant.” NW