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ZINASU President & 14 students arrested

SW Radio Africa news - The Independent Voice of Zimbabwe
ZINASU President & 14 students arrested

By Violet Gonda
5 August 2009

The Zimbabwe National Students Union reports that 14 students from the University of Zimbabwe including ZINASU President Clever Bere were arrested at the campus, three days after the UZ opened for the new semester on Monday.
The students were arrested while holding a meeting with their union representatives outside the university’s main library. Hundreds of students had gathered to chart the way forward on the issue of tuition fees, which many students have failed to raise. Like most tertiary institutions in the country, the UZ has been hit by disruptions over the years ranging from exorbitant fees, class boycotts by students and lecturers, and a serious crisis of accommodation. The institution that used to be one of the best in Africa was forced to shut down for several months because of non functioning sewer systems, students’ unrest over fees, and other issues.
On Wednesday ZINASU spokesperson Blessing Vava said desperate and stranded students are calling for the reopening of the halls of residence, and want the authorities to prioritise education, improve the welfare of students and ensure that all students have access to facilities, whether they have paid their tuition fees or not.
Currently UZ fees are ranging from US$300 to about US$600, amounts that are beyond the reach of the majority of students, in a country where the lowest civil servant earns just over US$140 a month.
Early this week the university placed a notice informing students who have not paid fees that they are barred from attending lectures and from using the library.
Vava said: “From the statistics from the bursar’s office, it’s now clear that three quarters of students have failed to raise money for tuition fees.”
“Today’s arrest is a clear indication that freedom of expression on campuses is still to be guaranteed in this country despite the coming of the inclusive government. We appeal to Ministry of Home Affairs and college authorities to deal with students in a more civilized manner, and allow students to gather and discuss their issues without being victimised.”
The ZINASU spokesperson told SW Radio Africa that human rights lawyers had been deployed to represent the arrested students, who are believed to be held at Avondale Police Station. We could not get a comment from the police.
Meanwhile, scores of students at Great Zimbabwe University held a peaceful protest over high tuition fees, lecturers’ strikes and the failure by the college to release results for examinations written last semester.