Protesting for free higher education, South Africa students brought universities to a standstill over the last few months. In many cases, #FeesMustFall protesters caused damage by burning university property, looting and vandalism.

But does it add up to R300 million?

The department of higher education claimed so in a media release this month. Department of higher education and training spokesman, Khaye Nkwanyana, told Africa Check that they had received the information directly from the universities.

When asked for the official technical reports from each university, Nkwanyana said that they had not required them from the universities. “It was each university’s responsibility to liaise with their insurance companies to gather the information and then tell us,” he added.

Damage at UKZN, UWC, UFS and Limpopo unconfirmed

Africa Check managed to confirm the amounts cited with 10 of the 14 universities mentioned. However, four universities are still to tell us what their damage added up to.

Attempts to get information from the University of Limpopo, which claimed R1,786,294.52 in damage, were fruitless. We spoke to the executive director of marketing and communications, Kgalema Mohuba, who promised us a response several times. We also contacted the university’s chief financial officer, Mamsy Shivambu, but she referred us back to Mohuba.

Africa Check emailed the University of Western Cape numerous times for a breakdown of the R46,544,446 in damage said to have occurred there. We followed up with phone calls to both the university’s spokesperson, Luthando Tyhalibongo, and assistant media officer, Aidan van den Heever. We haven’t yet heard from them.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal, which was second on the list after North-West University with R82 million in damages, said the major damage was caused by “fire and smoke damage to the MW Makgoba administration building and a residence building on the Westville Campus”.

However, executive director of the corporate relations division, Lesiba Seshoka, did not answer questions about whether the figure of R82 million was accurate or whether the university had submitted the estimate to the department.

He said the process of assessing damage was still underway. “Once the said process is finalised, a more informed decision may be taken by the university on its position.”

The University of the Free State, with R2.8 million in damages listed, likewise failed to respond. The secretary to Lacea Loader, the director of communication and brand management at the university, promised us a response from the director several times but at the time of publication we have not yet received it.