11 arrested during protests at Fort Hare's Alice campus, students claim police brutality

2020-02-26 22:23
University of Fort Hare students and police face off (Supplied by SAPS)

University of Fort Hare students and police face off (Supplied by SAPS)

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Eleven students were arrested at University of Fort Hare's Alice campus on Wednesday following another day of protests over financial exclusions and other issues.

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said they were arrested for public violence and other related charges.

"The situation is getting tense as students have now moved outside campus onto the road. However, POPS [Public Order Police] commanders on the ground are engaging with student leadership to convince them about the dangers of marching to the police station in [their] thousands," he added.

Kinana said there was a strong police presence.

Students alleged the university had called the police and private security in response to their peaceful march.

Some also claimed on social media a police officer had dragged a student out of the shower at a student residence.

Videos and photos showed pools of blood on bathroom tiles.

The university's institutional advancement director, Tandi Mapukata, told News24 the institution was aware of the reports and images circulating on social media.

"Management has double-checked with both the commander of the POPS and private security on campus and there are no reported cases of students being injured on the Alice campus to date," she said.

"We are also still checking with the local hospital and other health facilities, but at the time of writing, the veracity of the allegation could not be confirmed."

Mapukata said the registrar had invoked an existing court interdict that prevented students from disrupting campus operations.

"The registrar gave the students advance warning that the court order would become effective and that by law, the Public Order Police have a duty to restore peace.

"Today, students continued to pelt the police and private security on campus with stones, provoking them to retaliate."

On Monday and Tuesday, some students blocked the university entrance, burning tyres and blockading the R63 in front of the university.

Amid running battles with the police, a truck delivering supplies to a local business was ambushed and looted.

The university's SRC had held a mass meeting, where students raised issues such as financial exclusion, safety and security and mental illness.

student was stabbed on Saturday, two weeks after his friend, also a student, was murdered on February 8.

The SRC claimed more than 3 000 undergraduate and postgraduate students were being financially excluded because of historical debt.

It called for the resignation of the vice-chancellor, Professor Sakhela Buhlungu.

Mapukata said with regard to the "register one register all" demand, management had implemented all Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande's recommendations regarding the handling of student debt.

"Therefore, all students who qualify with the set criteria [including NSFAS funding] have been allowed to register. Unfortunately, there remains a category of students who do not meet the criteria set out by the department [and University of Fort Hare].

"Management has continuously engaged with such students and a number of concessions in this regard have been made."

The university said it was exploring all possible avenues to assist financially excluded students.

"However, the university is not in a position to concede to the demand of 'register one register all' as that would bring the university to its knees."

- Compiled by Jenna Etheridge

Read more on:    fort hare university  |  university protests  |  education

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