UKZN students arrested as protest turns violent

2014-02-07 00:00

SEVEN students were detained and others played cat and mouse with the police who were called to defuse a student march at the UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus yesterday.

The students started marching around the campus at 8 am yesterday waving ANC flags, with many of the protesters wearing bright yellow ANC t-shirts.

They walked along singing struggle songs and yelling slogans. The group of about 200 students were allegedly Sasco (South African Students Congress) members protesting about “issues” on the campus.

They were being monitored by campus security and a large group of police carrying guns. As the student group moved around, the police followed with their vehicles.

At one point the students were cornered by the police cars and police warned the students to leave the vehicles alone.

One student allegedly grabbed the barrel of a police officer’s firearm. A scuffle ensued and a few rubber bullets were fired. The students scattered in all directions with the police running after them.

Police looked for the ring leaders and, hiding in toilets, behind bushes and inside their girlfriends’ rooms, they were flushed out.

Sasco chairperson Pilane Mcwabe told The Witness they had informed the university of their intention to stage a peaceful march to air their grievances.

“There are a few issues and we wanted to raise awareness of them,” he said, adding students were being rejected by the Registration Appeals Committee system because they were unable to provide payslips from parents. He said some students’ parents were dead, but they were on bursaries and were getting good grades.

Mcwabe said there was also the issue of the granting of post graduate funds which had initially been granted and then had later been withdrawn.

Some of the students did not seem to know why they were marching, with one young woman saying she was just there to have fun and another saying she was there to raise awareness of the elections.

Police communications officer Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed that seven of the male students, aged between 20 and 35 years old, were apprehended and arrested by police for failing to comply with a court interdict.

Zwane said: “Statements are being obtained and they may still possibly be released on bail tomorrow.”

Spokesperson for UKZN Lesiba Seshoka said they had obtained a high court interdict and restraining order protecting the university against unlawful protests, disruptive gatherings, demonstrations, mass action, intimidation or any vio­lent act to persons or property at the entrance and premises of the UKZN campuses.

“The university reserves the right to take appropriate action on any student or person who is in breach of the interdict.

“In 2014, UKZN allocated R260 million from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to fund approximately 6 500 students. In addition, approximately R100 million, made up of University and National Research Foundation (NRF) funding, has been allocated for tuition in the form of loans, bursaries and scholarships this year,” said Seshoka, adding the registration process is underway and the university is in the process of finalising financial aid allocations. “Discussions with the student leadership on various issues are ongoing.”

Sasco said the court interdict was for their Durban branch of Sasco at Howard College and did not apply to them.

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