DUT campus closed after students, police clash

2008-02-05 00:00

Students, police and security personnel clashed in running battles on the Durban University of Technology (DUT)’s Steve Biko campus yesterday.

The campus has now been closed until next Monday.

Students threw bricks, bottles and stones.

Journalists were chased from the administration block and a photographer was struck on the back by a student wielding a stick.

Trouble erupted when the DUT’s security personnel used pepper spray to disperse about 400 students trying to force their way into the administration buildings.

Students then regrouped and gathered outside the canteen area of the Steve Biko campus. Police cordoned off surrounding roads and gave protesting students five minutes to leave the campus.

However, protesting students continued to sing and toyi-toyi outside the canteen area.

After the warning was issued over loud hailers in Zulu and English, police fired rubber bullets.

The crowd dispersed, fleeing the Steve Biko campus into neighbouring buildings and properties.

As police and journalists emerged from the campus, they were met with bricks, bottles and stones thrown from the buildings.

Police chased protesting students up and down the road and out of the neighbouring buildings.

University spokeswoman Nomonde Mbadi said in a statement released earlier that the DUT had been shut down and that it would remain closed until Friday.

She said staff were expected to return to work on Wednesday and the institution would reopen fully next Monday.

Police spokesman Inspector Michael Read said the university had been asked to close its doors as a safety precaution as striking students had become violent.

“The protesting students were disruptive and even damaged parts of the institution’s property … and there were also reports that striking students were intimidating non-striking students,” he said.

A policeman sustained a minor injury to his leg.

No students were arrested during the clashes, Read said.

Mhlonishwa Mashinini, a student from Johannesburg who was hoping start the first year of his National Diploma in Information Technology, said he had been given 10 minutes by security personnel to leave his room.

“I guess I’ll go home and then come back next week,” he said as he sat on the pavement outside the campus.

The students were protesting over student debt, accommodation and campus security.

Student Representative Council (SRC) spokesman Mtunzi Gumede said: “When we speak to the management, they should first go and see the state of the accommodation so they know what we are talking about”.

“We want to engage the management. We are the elected student representative council. We are not at war, but there are things that have to be conducive for the students,” he said.

The latest incident followed a week of protests organised by the DUT’s SRC.

On Friday more than 200 students staged protests at the institution’s Steve Biko campus.

Students, led by the SRC, are demanding that student debt be rolled over — especially for those receiving financial assistance.

The SRC is also demanding that the DUT does not increase accommodation fees.

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