Illegal protests continue at UKZN Westville as masked students storm lectures

2014-02-11 00:00

LECTURES at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville and Edgewood campuses were expected to resume today despite threats by some students to disrupt classes.

Yesterday, four students were arrested by police for, among other alleged offences, contravening the Regulation of Gatherings Act and a high court interdict.

Students at universities across the country have been protesting over the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Last week, a protest at the Durban University of Technology was called off after more than a week of disruptions.

By yesterday afternoon, the Student Representative Council at Westville declined to speak to the media about their issues and had gone to ground while UKZN’s spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said about 200 students had embarked on illegal protest action at the Edgewood campus, disrupting lectures, causing them to be cancelled.

“We are unaware of the reasons for the protests as these students have not raised their concerns through the correct channels,” he said.

He said a number of agreements had been reached and discussions were continuing on some outstanding matters.

Last week, the university obtained a high court interdict barring students from unlawful protests or any violent act on UKZN’s campuses. But yesterday masked students wielding sticks stormed lecture halls at the Westville campus around 8.40 am demanding that students vacate their classes.

Outside one of the entrances students burned tyres and dumped the contents of rubbish bins.

The security guards rerouted traffic while police kept an eye on students, as they formed a human chain near the library and canteen, to make sure order was maintained.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said the four students, aged between 21 and 24, will be charged for public violence and were expected to appear in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court today. The Witness spoke to the arrested students while they sat in a police van at the Westville campus.

Sphiwe Ndlovu denied any wrongdoing.

“I’m still scared and shocked. It’s my first time in a police van and it feels like I’m a thief … I’m scared that the cops will beat me up,” she said.

Another arrested student, Skhumbuzo Ndlovu, said he thought the reason he ended up inside a police van was because he did not run when police approached him.

“I know nothing about the protest. I live in an off-campus residence and I was sleeping when it took place.”

Seven students from UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus were remanded in custody after appearing briefly in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday in connection with last Thursday’s violent protest at the campus in the capital.

Their case was postponed to February 18 for a bail application.

Students at the Westville campus who spoke to The Witness said they had been looking forward to their first day of class.

Two first year B.Com. Accounting students said they were in their maths class waiting for their lecturer when two guys with sticks entered the lecture rooms.

“They had T-shirts wrapped around their faces. They were shouting ‘get out’. They were banging their sticks on the desks. They were very aggressive. There were about 250 of us and all exited through one door. It was like a stampede. I hope no one got hurt,” said a student who asked to remain anonymous. Another student, who was in her public administration class, said students started screaming and rushing out the door when two students barged into the lecture hall.

“I’m scared that things will carry on like this if the protesters don’t get what they want,” she said.

Second year student Nicci was not fazed. “There is so much you can do with a stick.”

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