‘This is a fight, a war’ - university protests

2019-02-07 16:01
The burnt-out shell of a guard hut at the entrance to the Pietermaritzburg University of KwaZulu-Natal campus. Students clashed with police and damaged property on Tuesday night. PHOTO: ian carbutt

The burnt-out shell of a guard hut at the entrance to the Pietermaritzburg University of KwaZulu-Natal campus. Students clashed with police and damaged property on Tuesday night. PHOTO: ian carbutt

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Police and Pietermaritzburg University of KwaZulu-Natal students were involved in a heated game of cat and mouse on Tuesday evening amidst clouds of tear gas, burning furniture and broken windows.

The clashes between police, private security and UKZN students started at around 9 pm on Tuesday with reports of students stoning cars driving along Alan Paton Avenue.

When The Witness arrived at the scene, police had blocked off Alan Paton Avenue and were re-directing traffic as well as passers-by.

While some heeded the warning of police, other students decided “to risk the walk” down Alan Paton toward where police were firing rounds of rubber bullets and tear gas near the Scottsville Mall.

Another small group of students had gathered along Ridge Road near an entrance to the campus residences.

Meanwhile, other pockets of students inside the campus were busy setting fire to grass, furniture and prefabs as part of the protest and were ducking and diving the rubber bullets and tear gas from police.

While The Witness was busy interviewing a student near the entrance to his res, two tear gas canisters were catapulted a few metres away from the residence buildings.

Students scattered and screamed as they tried to run from the tear gas but it filled most of the quad within a matter of seconds.

Students shouted for water as they regrouped and soaked cloths in water to mask their faces against the brutal sting of the tear gas.

At one stage, students had gathered at another entrance to the res and set a patch of grass alight.

Within a few minutes, police and/or private security ran around the corner, firing off tear gas canisters.

In a bid to escape the potential danger, students pushed and shoved each other to get through the entrance, knocking each other to the ground. 

A student shows her wound from a rubber bullet during a protest at the University of KwaZulu-Natal at Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.

“This is a fight, this is war,” said one of the students, who claimed to be leading the protest but asked not to be named.

“They are firing tear gas and rubber bullets into our residences. They are hurting our students,” she said as she pulled a friend toward her, lifting the woman’s jeans to show a nasty gash allegedly left by a rubber bullet.

“We still want access to free education and our accommodation is also still a major issue.

“There are so many students and just not enough places for us to stay.

“We are going hungry. Some of us are hungry and without accommodation. This is what we are fighting against,” she said, her voice hoarse from breathing in tear gas and shouting instructions to fellow students.

“We will continue to protest until our demands are met,” said the woman as students brought out a couch and set it alight against what appeared to be a guard hut.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn protests
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