Protesting UFS students disrupt prayer group

2016-02-24 14:21
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PICS: Protesters disrupt student prayers at UFS

Protesters have attempted to break up a group of students who have been holding a prayer session at the University of the Free State in response to recent conflicts at the institution. View pics from the scene here.

Bloemfontein - University of the Free State protesters disrupted a prayer group in front of the main gate of the campus on Wednesday afternoon.

While some UFS students prayed for peace, others stood around them singing and chanting, "Where were you?" as police looked on.

The protesters held posters that read: "JJ [vice chancellor Jonathan Jansen] must fall."

"We are told to be peaceful when we are oppressed. A lot of students who are praying are deregistered. We want them to join the strike," protester Mosa Moerane said.

Another protester, Isaac Phiri, said the university was not a church.

"They are disturbing our social justice cause,"Phiri said.

Students continued praying despite the singing and protesting. The protests involved contract workers demanding that the university employ them directly.

Jansen said in a statement on Tuesday that negotiations with contract workers had been going well, until recently, when without notice, they broke away and decided to protest on and around campus.

On Monday, a small group of students led by the SRC president also decided to protest, which culminated in the mass brawl between them and spectators at the Varsity Cup rugby match at Shimla Park stadium.

Student pastor Fanie van der Walt said they started praying after the Monday night brawl.

Jansen, who was at the stadium, said on Tuesday that the fight had opened up old wounds.

"Monday night's event was a setback for transformation. We had made so much progress. The acts of the spectators trampled literally and figuratively the rights of the protesters and opened old wounds," Jansen said. 

"We condemn this strongly. Nobody had the right to take the law into their own hands. While the protests were illegal and disruptive, it did no harm to the physical well-being of the spectators."

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