Local UKZN campus protests turn violent

2008-03-18 00:00

STUDENT protests at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the UKZN turned violent yesterday, with police using rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse a group of protesters.

International student and SRC member Mohammed Yusuf Ali sustained head injuries, allegedly as a result of being shot with a rubber bullet at close range. Three other students suffered minor injuries and 16 were arrested.

The protesters were making their way from the Agriculture and Science faculties when they were stopped by police in Carbis Road.

According to police, the students had no right to demonstrate on a public road.

Inspector Joey Jeevan told The Witness that the crowd of “about 250” ignored police warnings.

“The protesters refused to disperse and walked straight towards the police. Our members were left with no option but to use stun grenades and rubber bullets.”

She said those who were arrested were charged with failure to give notice of their gathering and for participating in a prohibited march, and with obstructing traffic.

The arrested students were released after a few hours and were not prosecuted.

Kwazi Mshengu, the secretary-general of the central SRC, told a different story to that of the police.

“There was no loudhailing or any warning issued, the police just fired randomly at the students.”

Jeevan denied allegations that Ali’s injuries were caused by a rubber bullet.

“Our information is that he fell on his head while fleeing. The police will … investigate this allegation,” she said.

Mshengu was certain that Ali’s injuries were a direct result of being shot with a rubber bullet.

Ali refused to comment, saying he did not want to “react emotionally”.

Protests continued after the incident, with students disrupting classes that were in progress.

The students are demanding that accommodation be provided for about 400 students currently on the housing waiting list.

They are also demanding that the director of housing, Vasanthie Naidoo, and the deputy dean of students, the Reverend James Ngomane, be expelled for being “incompetent”.

“We hold the pair personally responsible for the accommodation crisis,” Mshengu told The Witness.

In a statement issued yesterday, the university’s corporate relations unit said all lectures will continue as normal and that “discussions are under way to resolve the issue of accommodation on the Pietermaritzburg campus”.

Mshengu said a student delegation will meet with the deputy vice chancellors to demand that all tests written during the strike be rewritten.

The Young Communist League has called on the Independent Complaints Directorate to investigate the “brutality shown by the police in shooting the spree to innocent students”.

The strike is set to continue until tomorrow if all the student demands are not met.

bmbanjwa@witness.co.za

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