Two cows killed, four students injured as protesters run amok at Fort Hare university

2019-08-22 19:45
Protests have rocked the Alice campus of Fort Hare university. (Chris Gilili, GroundUp)

Protests have rocked the Alice campus of Fort Hare university. (Chris Gilili, GroundUp)

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Four students were injured and two cows chased down and killed in protests over student funding and building maintenance at the University of Fort Hare in Alice, the university said on Thursday. 

"We are quite shocked," said university spokesperson Lizo Phiti. 

He added three students were also arrested after clashes with the police broke out.

At a meeting last Friday, Phiti said, the Students Representative Council (SRC) had raised issues over why some students were not being funded by the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), as well as problems they had with building maintenance. 

He added the university had explained to the SRC that it was hamstrung with regards to the NSFAS because it does not decide on who gets funded. 

"The NSFAS sends us a list of funded students so we don't know the reasons why students are not funded." 

Phiti explained that besides not qualifying via the income threshold, applications might have been incomplete when submitted, or the application date had passed and the university could not pay the fees of students who were not funded. 

He said the institution would help them with NSFAS enquiries over why they were not funded, or help them to apply to it. 

Regarding the building maintenance, the university's management had agreed it would immediately check on the list of issues raised. It would meet again on Friday to discuss these findings and provide an immediate plan to address any maintenance problems.  

On Monday, students gathered en masse and demanded to speak to management despite the agreement to meet on Friday.

Students allegedly blocked the R63 into Alice and this escalated into altercations between the police and students after vehicles were stoned, and rubber bullets fired. 

Four students were injured during the clashes and taken to Victoria Hospital in Alice.

Two were released by Thursday, while the other two were still recovering in hospital. 

"And then on Wednesday yes, a terrible thing happened. Students went around campus singing, so most didn't attend classes," Phiti said. 

"By midday, they blocked gates, stoning the cars of innocent public individuals. 

"Around 13:00 it surfaced that a cow was attacked and parts of the cow ... and the students went [on] to carve it to pieces and took those to their rooms."

It was later found that two cows had been killed.

The cows belonged to neighbouring villagers and had been herded onto the campus. 

"The police responded by going onto the campus, firing teargas," Phiti said. 

He added a video conference was held with students and the university's management decided to put the university into recess. 

The university is expected to re-open on September 2, but the planned meeting for Friday is still expected to go ahead.

The NSPCA said it had only heard about the incident via News24's request for comment, so its farm animal protection unit was looking into it and would comment later.

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