Begging to be arrested

2016-09-23 08:19
A security guard armed with a paintball rifle monitors protesting UKZN students.

A security guard armed with a paintball rifle monitors protesting UKZN students. (Ian Carbutt)

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WATCH: UKZN student injured during #FeesMustFall protest

2016-09-22 12:14

Medics treated a woman with an arm injury sustained during protests on Thursday.WATCH

Pietermaritzburg - The Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal resembled a war zone on Thursday as rioting students clashed with police in a fiery battle for free education.

The result of the 10-hour battle was clouds of tear gas, a frenzy of rubber bullets, broken windows, hurtling rocks and turmoil on the roads around the campus.

With students’ tempers flaring after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement of a maximum eight percent fee increase next year, the FeesMustFall campaign intensified at dawn when more than 500 students went on the rampage.

At 06:00, a group of 200 students ransacked the William O’Brien (WOB) residence, destroying surveillance cameras and chasing off the security guard posted at the entrance.

The onslaught soon spread to other residences as students torched furniture they had jammed against access gates to block others living in the residences from leaving.

With the residences now fortified, the students clashed with police from behind the walls in an exchange of bricks, beer bottles and rubber bullets.

When The Witness arrived at the university, a group of about 80 students behind walls in the Malherbe residence were stoning vehicles travelling on Alan Paton Avenue.

The students had erected tables as shields and barricaded the entrance to the residence with burning furniture.

When police retaliated with stun grenades and tear gas, students hurled bricks, stones and beer bottles in their direction.

After an hour of clashes, when the turmoil seemed as though it had calmed, the police and bystanders were sent retreating when the students released their own tear gas concoction in the yard of a private property opposite the residence.

The Witness was given exclusive access to the Malherbe residence where students were regrouping while police officers washed out their eyes. The battle then flared up once again. This time, a taxi driver parked on King Edward Avenue behind the Malherbe residence experienced the violence first-hand.

A police officer had fired a tear gas cannister at students, but the rocket-like projectile missed its target and crashed through the window of the taxi, shattering the glass and startling the driver. The driver tried to take off, but had to bolt from the vehicle when the cannister let off its stinging gas inside the taxi. The driver was too shaken to speak of his experience.

Inside the residence, students were chanting struggle songs and breaking down braais to get bricks and concrete blocks for ammunition against the police.

Elsewhere, smaller groups of students began disrupting classes in the DSLT and Old Main Building.

Over the police radios, frantic calls for assistance could be heard after someone reported there was a bomb on university property. The Bomb Squad, however, found no trace of explosive devices.

The protest escalated just after 11:00. At the Malherbe residence a female student was injured when a tear gas canister struck her arm.

Attempts were made to disrupt lectures and staff in the Science block were threatened. However, university security were quick to react and the group was dispersed.

The frenzy then spilled onto the roads around the campus.

Riot police could be seen chasing students down Golf Road, tear gas and rubber bullets exploding into oncoming cars.

At the intersection of Golf and Ridge roads, student leaders staged a final demonstration, but were sent fleeing into the campus by police.

An hour later, the violence erupted again when students started to block Alan Paton Avenue with burning furniture and appliances.

One of the students, who had lain down on the road as his colleagues attempted to form a human barrier from the police, was run over by an oncoming car and had to be rushed to hospital.

Afterwards, a group of about 150 students approached the police and begged to be arrested. The violence quietened down thereafter.

According to a police source, one student leader was arrested yesterday along with various other students spotted damaging property.

KZN police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said nine students had been arrested by Thursday afternoon.

University spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said lectures would resume on Friday.

“It is hoped that during this period we will be able to locate and arrest those individuals that are perpetuating violence on the campus,” Seshoka said.

Read more on:    ukzn  |  pietermaritzburg  |  university fees  |  university protests

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