The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) says it can’t give in to student demands to write off historical debt.

The university has been rocked by violent student protests since the beginning of the academic year, mainly over financial exclusions.

Briefing the National Assembly Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology, the institution said it wouldn’t be able to meet its financial obligations for the year if it gives in to student demands.

UKZN Vice-Chancellor, Nana Poku, told committee members about the difficulties the institution is facing.

“Our discussion at the start of the year from our student leadership was that all student population members from the encamp of about 350 or below should be registered without paying any fees or indeed settling any specific historical debt. Those propositions were something that we could not see to in large part because we will render the institution with this huge historical problem, which in turn will make it very difficult for us to furnish the year,” says Poku.

The student leadership of UKZN says there is nothing to be gained from the on-going conflict between the university management and students.

The university’s Student Representative Council (SRC) told Parliament that mistrust between students and university authorities is at the centre of the problem.

SRC President, Sifiso Simelane, said the university has for a long time failed to handle the problem of student debt properly.

“Is it NSFAS? Is it student leaders? Who stands to benefit in this chaos? I think that these are critical questions that this portfolio committee must deliberate on. Sometimes when we are trying to find a solution, we must not misdiagnose. When we want to deal with something, we must find where it stems from because once we get that we will be able to sort these issues,” says Simelane.

In the video below, UKZN SRC President Sifiso Simelane says he doesn’t agree with the suspension of academic programmes