Students’ protest turns violent

2011-03-26 00:00

STUDENTS protesting at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Westville campus yesterday sprayed pepper spray at fellow students, the university said.

The strike, organised by the Student Representative Council (SRC), stems from discontent over the financial aid packages awarded to students. Classes were disrupted during the protests.

UKZN spokesperson Nomonde Mbadi said, “We have received reports and are in possession of evidence of ‘protesting’ students disrupting lectures and using pepper spray on fellow students … An investigation is under way to bring the perpetrators to book.”

SRC president Bongumenzi Mhlango denied the allegations. “The police fired at us,” he said.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane told The Witness that the police used a water cannon and stun grenades to disperse about 1 000 rioting students. Police did not use any pepper spray, he said.

The students are protesting a shortfall in the funds allocated to the university, which means that many students from disadvantaged communities are denied financial aid, Mhlango said.

He added that in some cases, students were told that they qualified for aid, but were advised to apply for it when the applications had already closed. He estimates that over 400 students have been left without financial aid.

Mbadi said the students’ protest was illegal, as it was in violation of a court interdict served on March 4, which is still in effect.

The interdict prohibits students from any acts of intimidation and damage to property. It also prohibits any mass action on any of the campuses. Mbadi added that after the police read the interdict to the gathered students, the protesters dispersed.

Zwane said no arrests were made, but a case of public violence has been opened.

Mbadi said that yesterday’s protests follow an incident that occurred late on Thursday where a fire broke out in one of the university’s buildings after a demonstration by students. She said an investigation into the matter is under way.

 

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