False and doubtful claims cloud UKZN student protest

2016-09-08 15:05
A group of mostly female UKZN students gathered at the Pietermaritzburg campus to condemn the alleged rape of a female student on Monday. The police say no case has been reported.

A group of mostly female UKZN students gathered at the Pietermaritzburg campus to condemn the alleged rape of a female student on Monday. The police say no case has been reported. (Ian Carbut)

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Student accusing police officers of rape, a law library left gutted in a suspected arson attack and a campus brought to a standstill by violent protest action.

That is the situation at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) campuses across the province, whose management on Tuesday halted lectures for two weeks in the hope that intense protests by their students could be quelled.

On Wednesday morning, a group made up mostly of female students gathered at the main campus in Pietermaritzburg to protest against the alleged rape of a female student by a police officer.

The students claim the woman was raped during protest action at the university on Monday.

However, KZN police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane told The Witness on Tuesday that no such case had been reported to the police.

Some staff at the university who spoke to The Witness yesterday said there was widespread speculation surrounding the veracity of the claims.

One staff member said the incident had been reported to the university, but it is believed the incident took place off-campus.

“The details surrounding the case are a bit sketchy at this stage. In these situations, a student could also be crying wolf in order to rile other students who may then want to join in the protest action,” the staff member said.

“It does support student leadership’s agenda to get guards and police off campus property. I guess we must await the outcome of the investigation.”

WhatsApp forums were also abuzz yesterday with a false report that The Mall at Scottsville had fallen victim to protesting students, who had allegedly stampeded into the premises, knocking customers over and damaging property. The false claim stated shots were fired by police and a student was killed.

A source at the mall denied the claims.

“On Tuesday when students were fleeing police, some did rush into the mall to escape.

“However, the claims were greatly exaggerated. No damages were incurred and the ordeal lasted a few minutes. Nothing happened,” the source said.

Acting Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Captain Khosi Khonjelwayo also said the police were not aware of any such incidents on Wednesday.

During the early hours of Wednesday morning, police and private security guards employed by the university battled students for several hours in a dangerous game of cat and mouse on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

According to a police source, a group of students had allegedly created Molotov cocktails using petrol and paraffin, and hurled the homemade bombs at guards near the residences.

The officers and guards retaliated with rubber and paintball rounds, the battle lasting about three hours until 3 am on Wednesday morning.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, a section of the university’s law library at Howard College in Durban was left gutted.

Hundreds of books were destroyed in the blaze, which started just after 5 pm.

The Metro Fire Department and the university’s Risk Management Services (RMS) managed to extinguish the flames within an hour.

UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Sheshoka said an investigation into the possibility of arson is under way and RMS and Public Order Policing (POP) units are on high alert monitoring the campus.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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