JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African authorities arrested at least 30 students after a the torching of a building at the University of Fort Hare during overnight protests, local media said on Thursday, a day before a visit by President Jacob Zuma visit to mark its centenary.
Television station eNCA said the detained students would appear in court on Thursday to face charges. Some students were gathering at the campus to march to the court in solidarity with their colleagues, it said.
It was not immediately clear why the students were protesting. At least six South African universities have been hit by sporadic protests this year, usually over local campus grievances. Last year South Africa experienced nationwide student marches against increases in university fees.
Bulali Rawana, president of the students’ representative council at the university, blamed unidentified people for “hijacking the protests” by lighting fires at the campus.
University officials were not available to comment.
The government said the event to mark the centenary of the university in Eastern Cape Province on Friday would go ahead as planned.
As well as Zuma, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is among those scheduled to attend the event. South Africa’s late president Nelson Mandela is one of the university’s alumni.
“We were planning a national and international event here that is expected to be attended by five presidents who come from (the region),” said police spokesman Khaya Tonjeni, adding that more details on the overnight clashes would be provided later.
Earlier this month, angry residents torched 19 schools in the northern Limpopo province, protesting a change in municipal boundaries which they say is a recipe for poor social services, as tensions rise ahead of local polls in August.
Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Gareth Jones