The same people hired to protect us are assaulting us - UJ students

2016-09-29 21:29
Emergency Services at a burnt lecture hall at UJ. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

Emergency Services at a burnt lecture hall at UJ. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

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Police treat fire at UJ lecture hall as crime - spokesperson

2016-09-29 15:34

UJ spokesperson Kaamini Reddy says police have cordoned off the scene of a fire on campus.WATCH

Johannesburg - The heavy presence of private security guards on the University of Johannesburg's (UJ) campuses has left students feeling shaken and unsafe.

This follows two separate instances where private security guards were recorded physically assaulting students on and off campus after a week of protests in which students called for universities across the country to scrap fees and provide free higher education.

"I don't feel safe at all," a fourth year BCom Accounting student told News24 on Thursday. 

"The same guys the university says are supposed to protect us are actually assaulting us.

"The end goal [of Fees Must Fall] is to get free quality education for everyone, including the children of the very people who are assaulting us right now," the student said.

He said he did not condone the destruction of property and understood that the university wanted to avoid further damage by increasing the level of security on campus, however, students should not be the target of violence.

"I understand…the bouncers must do their jobs yes, but all we want is to protest in peace. It's a very complex situation [but] I don't see the need to use violence," he said.

SRC president first to be assaulted

Two videos showing private security guards slapping, manhandling and punching students and journalists during and after Fees Must Fall protests at the university's campuses surfaced this week.

In the first video, taken on Tuesday, private security guards are seen inside a building blocking students from advancing. Some students are seen resisting the guards' orders and respond by shouting and pointing. Some attempt to push their way to get through. Students are then pushed back, slapped and beaten as they try to get away from the guards.

According to another student who was there on the day, the students were marching through the building in solidarity with the national call for free higher education.

They were being led by SRC president Onwabile Lubhelwana who was reportedly the first to be assaulted as he tried to make way for the students to leave the area.

"As we were about to leave they manhandled the president and the students were against this. They attacked him, beat him, they pepper-sprayed him… and that's when the chaos started.

"There was no provocation from our side; we just started being frantic when we were being attacked. People were getting pepper-sprayed for nothing, students were actually being beaten," he said.

The student, who lives in a residence on campus, said he no longer felt safe walking around, especially in the presence of the guards.

"These bouncers walk in groups of 20. If you are walking on a pathway and you see a group of them you have to stand in the trees because they won't move for you.

Petrol station confrontation

"Our parents paid for us to be here but I feel more threatened than protected.

"We've been receiving SMSs saying classes are continuing but we don't feel safe on campus, [yet] you are afraid to miss out any classes," he said.

In the second video, taken on Wednesday, a reporter recorded private security guards at a petrol station located between UJ's Kingsway and Bunting Road campuses.

In the video, the guards, with big sticks in their hands, begin forcefully removing people sitting at the back of a bakkie by hitting them and shouting "Suka [Move]!".

The guards then approach other bystanders, shouting at them and beating the sticks on the ground.

A young man who was removed from the bakkie then asks the guards in Zulu, "Do you hit your own child like this? Look me in the eye if you want to kill me then. Do you hit your own child like this?"

No instruction to attack students

A man then attempts to hit the student across the face, but the student steps back and is pushed around by the guards. They then proceed to slap and kick him.

The guards then ask the person recording the incident if they are a student and if they are recording what is happening, which he denies.

The guards then proceed to beat the man they suspect is recording the incident -  eNCA intern Thapelo Leshope - and the voice of a man can be heard saying, in Zulu, "He is not recording, he's not recording", as they beat him.

At the end of the video, Leshope is seen covering a bleeding wound on his forehead with some tissue.

The Fidelity Security Group which provides services to the university said it did not give instructions to its employees to attack or target the media and students.

It referred all questions relating to the chain of command to its client.

"If any discrepancies were found with our staff's actions…we will investigate it immediately and if necessary follow our due internal processes," it said in a statement. 

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