CAMPUS PROTEST SPREADS, University: Police called as march turns violent

2009-02-05 00:00

Riot police were called in when a protest at the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Edgewood campus began turning violent yesterday.

This is the second campus to be disrupted by protests this week. On Monday and Tuesday, protests at the university’s Westville campus turned ugly, resulting in the arrest of five students who were charged with malicious damage to property.

They were objecting to conditions in residences as well as a lack of adequate transport to and from the campus. The Edgewood protest is also believed to be about problems with accommodation.

There were no arrests or injuries at Edgewood, although new students who were caught in the chaos were traumatised.

A newly registered graduate student, who asked not to be named, was locked in one of the main buildings surrounded by protesting students. She had already battled to drive between protesting students, swerving to miss two students who fell to the ground fighting in front of her car.

She said they were armed with sticks and batons, and threw water-filled condoms. “We pay our fees. We have a right to feel safe at and educational institution and I did not. I feel let down,” she said.

Parents who called The Witness described the situation as unacceptable and asked for reassurances that their children would be safe and that the courses for which they paid will not be further disrupted.

Professor Fikile Mazibuko, deputy vice-chancellor and head of college ( humanities), confirmed that students handed in a memorandum at the Westville and Edgewood campuses.

“Registration at the Edgewood campus was disrupted by about 150 students who blocked the entrances at the library and the main entrance to the Margaret Martin lecture theatre where registration was taking place,” he said, adding that by the end of yesterday the students’ representative council and university executive had reached an agreement.

Registration and lectures continued on both campuses. Mazibuko warned that any further disruptions will be dealt with “firmly and decisively” and said additional security has been arranged to ensure that today’s registration runs smoothly.

Since Monday, 20 889 students have registered at the Howard College, Westville, Edgewood and Pietermaritzburg campuses.

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