Students clash over Tuks language policy

Pretoria - Scuffles broke out between students at the University of Pretoria on Thursday afternoon over the institution's language policy.

Several organisations, including AfriForum Youth, the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and the EFF Student Command (EFFSC) attended a meeting on the issue, with the attendees accusing one another of causing disruptions.

ANC Youth League Secretary at UP, Samkele Cetyiwe, blamed Afriforum Youth, while the latter said the EFF tried to intimidate its members.

“We were going to debate language policy. AfriForum managed to get into the meeting and disrupted proceedings. One thing led to another and a black student was hit by a white student,” he claimed.

But AfriForum Youth's national co-ordinator Morne Mostert refuted claims that they caused the disruptions.

He said a meeting was called between student structures such as the EFFSC, YPA, and UPRising to discuss the university’s language policy. He had received an invitation in his personal capacity.

“Students on campus said they wanted Afrikaans to remain as a mother tongue language. The meeting was cancelled and we handed over a memorandum to ask that the university should recognise Afrikaans and Sepedi as mother tongues to be taught,” he said.

Mostert said the EFF protested and tried to intimidate AfriForum members.

According to a student who did not want to be named, there was a stand-off between the different groups. Subsequently one group entered a mathematics class in the engineering faculty and disturbed proceedings.

“They shouted 'one language'. We were supposed to write a test but that was postponed. Our class is actually in English,” the student said.

Security guards and police tried to separate the groups. Cetyiwe claimed security guards intervened, but only targeted black students.

“Whenever we are facing the mob, we are the only ones getting pepper-sprayed. We have decided that tomorrow [Friday] we will start addressing issues of transformation. There won't be any lectures tomorrow,” he said.

The university confirmed there was a stand-off between members of the AfriForum Youth and the EFFSC. No damage to property was reported.

"Extra security will be employed on campus tomorrow and the university will be open. No disruption to any academic activities, or any unlawful action such as violence or the vandalism of property will be tolerated," UP spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer said.

Mostert said it did not make sense for everything to be taught in English as only 10% of students were English speaking.

"We are just asking for mutual recognition and respect of Afrikaans and Sepedi. We want everyone to feel welcome at the university,” Mostert said.

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