Student leader blames Westville campus violence on ‘ignorance’

2015-10-09 09:42
UKZN students hold up placards during their protest yesterday. Negotiations with management entered their third week.

UKZN students hold up placards during their protest yesterday. Negotiations with management entered their third week. (Chelsea Pieterse, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - A “disappointed” SA Students’ Congress (Sasco) provincial secretary has blamed “ignorance” for the resurfacing of violent protests at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) Westville campus on Wednesday.

The violence broke out just two days after Phinda Mofokeng had announced that the student leadership had reached an agreement with the university management to end the strike.

The UKZN students who went on the rampage on Wednesday are said to have been lobbying for the release of three students leaders arrested last month when the violence initially broke out.

SA Democratic Students’ Movement (Sadesmo) national academic officer Nonkululeko Nkwanyana told The Witness how violence had erupted on the Westville campus after one of the leaders was rumoured to have been stabbed to death in prison.

“It later appeared that he was still alive, but it was true that he was stabbed,” said Nkwanyana.

Since then the students have been calling for the release of the leaders, who are due to appear in court next week for a bail hearing.

Mofokeng blamed “ignorance” for Wednesday’s violence.

“We agreed with management that they are not going to oppose bail. They [the management] can do nothing about the release because the matter is in a court of law,” he said.

UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the university would not withdraw criminal charges against those arrested.

“We laid charges against those who damaged university property and we are bound by the rules of the country. In an effort to find a mutually beneficial solution, the university will not oppose bail for students arrested on account of minor misdemeanours. However, this excludes criminal cases outside of the university’s jurisdiction,” he said.

Seshoka said the university would institute a full commission of inquiry to probe the reasons for the outbreak of violent protests, as the Westville campus was also bound by the agreement reached with the students.

“They may want to interpret it the way they want to. They may feel that they are not part of it because their leaders are arrested, but it’s a binding agreement for all the student bodies,” he said.

Although Mofokeng said 10 students had been arrested on Wednesday, police spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane said the number was in fact eight.

“They were charged with public violence and will be appearing in court soon,” he said.

The students who appeared in court yesterday had their case adjourned until October 21 for a formal bail inquiry.

The Economic Freedom Fighters’ Student Command (EFFSC) vowed to help free the arrested students.

“Westville prison is one of the most dangerous in the country. You cannot keep the students there. These are students, not thieves,” said Chuma Wakeni. Mofokeng said any student organisation was open to intervening in whichever way they could.

“During this strike, all the student bodies were united. They were all part of the drafting of the memorandum,” he said

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn  |  student protests

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