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Students, admin blamed for riots

by Lesotho Times

MASERU — A preliminary report on an investigation into the riots that rocked the National University of Lesotho (NUL) last October has laid the blame squarely on students’ irresponsible behaviour. 
The report compiled by the sub-committee of the university Senate said the strike, which left one student dead and more than a dozen injured, occurred because “students do not respond to issues like mature and responsible university people”. 
Matseliso Thuso died from pellet wounds.
A hall was burnt and windows broken as students went on a rampage protesting after the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) had delayed their allowances.
The students say one of the police officers called to contain the riots fired the fatal shot that killed Thuso.
Police this week said they were yet to make any arrests in connection with the killing as investigations were still continuing. 
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha said the police complaints unit was still investigating the matter.
The preliminary report does not say who fired the fatal shot but deals with the broader causes of the October 22 strike.
The preliminary report recently leaked to the Lesotho Times said NUL student leaders had played a huge role in sparking the riots.
“NUL students no longer have respect for themselves, elders, authority and the public at large,” it said, adding that the current crop of student leaders were more interested in gaining political mileage out of strikes rather than finding solutions. 
“For example, although students had held discussions with NUL authorities and the NMDS about the allowances coming on October 21, 2009, meaning there would be no need for them to go to NMDS the following day; they later reneged on the agreement.
“This is inconsistent with the expectation of a principled university student.” 
The report said the NUL students do not appear to believe in negotiations and representation.
“This is regrettable.”
It said that students do not seem to elect the SRC following any principles.
“Their choice seems to be based on cheap popularism (sic) issues (commonly referred to among the students as ho lahla mollo).”
The other finding was that there was poor organisation and leadership within the NUL SRC.
The investigations found that during the students’ unrest last October, the SRC was divided into factions.
“They were not working towards a common goal. The SRC was leading the strike both directly and indirectly by leading from behind.
“The evidence revealed that the director of NMDS could not be given an audience by the students who were gathered next to the approaches of parliament waiting for her to address them.”
It also alleges that during the strike some students “were seen drinking and holding beer cans/bottles and using alcohol in public”.
“They were very abusive and rowdy. Some of them even stripped themselves naked.”
A large part of the report deals with the blame shifting by the NUL administration and NMDS over who delays the grants. 
For instance, the NMDS insisted during the investigation that NUL normally delays giving them the list of registered students that will get the grants.
“In addition, NMDS says that the bank requires the lists in batches, rather than all of them at the same time,” the report said.
The university contended that there was no need for it to be the conduit between the NMDS and the students.
“The practice affects the university negatively because the university bears the bank charges. NUL recommends that NMDS should pay the money to the students directly.”
According to the report, the NMDS’ failure to provide allowances on time was a “perennial problem.”
“The students contend that the usual practice is for them to receive the money around the 15th of the month, even though there is no written or oral agreement to that effect.
“Students further contend that in order for them to get the money they usually have to go on class boycotts and demonstrations,” the report said.
The report also deals with the nature of police involvement in the NUL riots.
“As a general rule, the committee considers that the police should not be readily called to the university campus to assist, unless the university administration is certain that they will use the appropriate riot quelling equipment.”
The report recommends that even if the police are called “the university management should always be directly involved”.
It also says the university administration should adopt “more proactive policy towards maintaining efficiency and good order” especially in such crisis situations.
“The university should reintroduce leadership skills training workshops, not only for members of staff but also for students.”

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