Fires started at Wits, UKZN as protesters change tactics

2016-10-14 23:23
Tow truck set alight by students in Braamfontein. (Maryke Vermaak, Twitter)

Tow truck set alight by students in Braamfontein. (Maryke Vermaak, Twitter)

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Cape Town - Three fires had to be put out at Wits University on Friday night, and part of an HIV/Aids clinic was torched at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Howard College campus as protesters change tactics to night battles.

A 22:00 curfew announced at Wits set off outrage among some students, who started the #Habibsapartheid hashtag on social media, comparing the restrictions to an apartheid state of emergency.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said the curfew was put in place because of an apparent change to night attacks by protesters, following fires on Thursday night, and to keep students safe.

Before the curfew started on Friday night, police chased after a group of people believed to be responsible for one of the fires, firing teargas, but the group ran into a women's residence.

Police did not want to enter the women's residence and stood outside while occupational health and safety staff assessed the building for safety after the teargas was discharged outside.

Patel said the building was cleared for safety and there would be no need to evacuate the students.

Security official injured

During the day eight students were suspended and 11 were arrested after protesters fanned out, with some starting fires. A Wits security official had to get stitches after being injured during the fracas.

Patel said a bus from the Tshwane University of Technology was not allowed to enter the campus after violent protests there.

Meanwhile, the toilets of an HIV/Aids clinic on the Howard college campus at UKZN was torched on Friday night.

The fire brigade put the fire out and, apart from the toilets, the clinic was intact.

Spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said a section of the student clinic caught fire at around 20:00 on Friday.

The metro fire department and university risk management services managed to extinguish the flames by 21:00.

Police monitoring situation

"Security officials suspect arson," said Seshoka.

An investigation is under way and police are on campus to monitor the situation.

There were also some attempts to disrupt lectures earlier on Friday and a student was arrested for discharging a fire extinguisher in a lecture venue.

At the University of Cape Town, police fired stun grenades after vice chancellor Max Price was surrounded and punched twice during discussions with students outside the Bremner Building.

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