Classes temporarily suspended as EFF members lock lecture halls

Johannesburg - A group of EFF members disrupted classes at the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute on Monday by locking students out of classrooms, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture said on Monday.

"When we got there, a small group of [EFF members] had padlocked the classrooms and prevented students from attending classes," spokesperson Petro van Rhyn said.

She said the institution's management and officials from the department tried to speak to the group of no more than 20, but they would not budge.

"Classes resumed after 12:00, after the Public Order Police were called in to break the locks."

Van Rhyn said the group was made up of a few students and a number of "outside parties".

No arrests were made, but any students involved in the incident would face the repercussions for bridging the institution's Code of Conduct, she said.

There has been an ongoing dispute over a policy about the language of instruction at the institution.

The college's Student Representative Council (SRC) say they felt that non-white, non-Afrikaans speaking students were still being victimised.

Classes were disrupted two weeks ago by students unhappy with the implementation of the institution's dual English/Afrikaans language policy.

SRC chairperson Sabelo Ngcobo has previously said Afrikaans was being prioritised. They wanted classes to be in English only.

On Monday, AfriForum Youth accused the group of swearing at white students and spitting in their faces during their protest.

"It is clear that today's riot did not focus on language issues, but rather on provoking a racial incident," AfriForum Youth's national chairperson Henk Maree said.

An urgent court interdict would be launched to force the institution's management to call in police reinforcements on the campus, he said.

"The safety of students and access to education are the most important priorities and we will do everything in our power to enforce this and see that students' rights are protected."

Third year student and EFF member Liphelo Mpumlwana said locking the classroom doors was a symbol of the students' stance on the oppressive "Afrikaner" culture at the college.

"Today we decided to protest, part of it was locking the lecture halls. It was part of a signal of our [frustration] against the culture [here]."

She said the group of protesters was not violent and only reacted when provoked.

"We didn't spit in their faces, we only responded to words that were said to us."

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