Police watch Turfloop campus after clashes over SRC seats

2013-10-11 12:35

Police were monitoring the situation at the University of Limpopo’s Turfloop campus following an eventful night of rubber bullets and running battles between protesting students and the police.

Although academic activities seemed to be proceeding as usual, it was still tense this morning, with police vehicles, including Nyalas, seen driving up and down the campus in Mankweng outside Polokwane.

The university said protesting students started going on the rampage from Wednesday, damaging university property, including vehicles and buildings.

The same thing happened again yesterday, when more damage was done and police were called in to disperse protesters.

The university and its external surroundings hosted ugly scenes last night, with stones and rubble strewn in the streets and in front of entrances to the campus. Running battles between police and students went on until late in the night.

Police water cannons and Nyalas were hard at work trying to disperse groups outside campus, while officers were seen standing behind locked entrances around the campus.

Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said: “Students were blocking entrances to the university and we had to employ minimal force using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon. They were pelting police with stones and some of our vehicles were also damaged in the process.”

He said 12 students were arrested for public violence, damage to property and resisting arrest.

The ugly protest emanates from students politics that turned ugly after an SRC election about two weeks ago.

The ANC Youth League and the ruling party’s student organisation, the SA Students’ Congress (Sasco), were contesting as individuals in the election.

Julius Malema’s new party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), also contested the elections. They won four seats.

Sasco won seven seats, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) won three and the Students Christian Organisation (SCO) took two.

It appeared that attempts to get Sasco and the ANCYL to merge failed. The latter had apparently refused to compromise and settle for lower positions in the SRC structure.

There were also reports that, in an unusual move, the ANCYL had opted to make a pact with the EFF and the SCO to form a stronger opposition against Sasco in a bid to prevent the latter from holding key positions like that of president, secretary and treasurer.

Meanwhile, the Limpopo ANCYL provincial task team (PTT) decided to disband the branch committee on campus after they went against orders and contested the elections against their own, Sasco.

The university said that when this happened, Sasco members decided to disrupt a meeting where the SRC was to be constituted on Wednesday.

University spokesperson Kgalema Mohuba said: “The SRC constitution has still not happened because of the disruption by Sasco members who went on a protest. The protest is very worrying because students are preparing for exams, which start in two weeks.”

The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), which is made up of the Young Communist League, the ANCYL and Sasco, has blamed university management.

“We want to categorically put it on record that the PYA has won 11 seats and this puts us in a majority to decide on who must be president of the SRC. In constituting processes, the management of the university has been conniving with EFF to constitute the SRC under wrong pretences,” PYA said in a statement.

The claim that the PYA has won 11 seats, however, is in doubt, as discord between ANCYL and Sasco persists.

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