Tear gas clears out lectures

2010-03-05 00:00

TWO students of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg campus were hospitalised in serious condition yesterday, after they were pepper-sprayed by another student during a march protesting exclusions of students whose fees are unpaid.

Another two were treated at the university clinic, and the culprit was arrested by campus security.

Students said the drama began at about 8.40 am when tear gas was thrown into a lecture room crowded with 300 people.

A student who did not want to be named said they had to run outside.

“They just opened the door and threw in the tear gas. Up until that point I was not even aware that there was a strike going on.

“As the tear gas started to spread, we heard someone coughing under the seats … it was another student who was suffering from a shortness of breath. He was resuscitated by lecturers and the ambulance crew.”

A source in the security division said they apprehended the student who was responsible for both the tear gas and the pepper spray incidents.

“He sprayed about four students; two of them were in serious condition and had to be transferred to hospital. Our cli­nic could manage to help the other two, and we eventually arrested the suspect.”

The tear gas incident led to lectures being cancelled for the rest of the day

By mid-morning hundreds of students who were not holed up inside the library or back in their rooms loitered around, watching the others demonstrate by singing struggle songs and vowing not to back down until they had achieved their objectives.

By midday the situation had grown tense as the protesters started threatening the students who were not participating, evicting them from the library and stopping anyone with books heading towards the library.

Isaac Luthuli of the Young Communist League said that although he was not aware of the details of the pepper-spraying incident, he reminded the management that the university is supposed to be closed.

Nomonde Mbadi, the campus’s executive director for corporate relations, said that while there were rogue elements, the march was otherwise relatively peaceful and that lectures had resumed by yesterday afternoon.

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