- The police have opened criminal cases after four Public Order Police unit members were attacked and wounded, and an armoured police vehicle torched, during a student protest in Mthatha.
- The cost of replacing an armoured Nyala is over R1 million.
- SAPS is calling on anyone who may have witnessed the attack to report the culprits to the nearest police station.
The SA Police Service has opened criminal cases after four Public Order Police Unit members were attacked and wounded, while an armoured police Nyala was torched, during violent protest action by Walter Sisulu University students in Mthatha on Monday.
Protesting students reportedly set a police Nyala alight at the entrance of Water Sisulu University’s Nelson Mandela Drive Campus along the N2.
The violent protest over an array of student demands, including the waving of student debt and the provision of funding and accommodation, entered its fifth day on Tuesday.
The university said the situation across all their campuses remained tense but stable.
According to the police, counselling and support had been provided to the injured police officers, and that one officer had been hospitalised following the attack.
A senior Eastern Cape police officer who did not want to be named said it would cost SAPS just over R1 million to replace an armoured Nyala. This included the costs of fitting the vehicle with emergency systems including sirens, blue lights, radios, loud hailers and bulletproof system on windows, the officer told News24.
SAPS announced that cases of malicious damage to property and assault had been registered. Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said nobody had been arrested yet.
"The SAPS is calling on anyone who saw what transpired or know of anyone who is responsible for these acts, to contact their nearest police station or share the information through the MySAPS App," Naidoo said.
Members of the public are reminded that they may remain anonymous.
Naidoo said the four Public Order Police members sustained injuries when a group of protesters threw stones at them while they were conducting foot and vehicle patrols. He said that two officers who were guarding the Nyala had managed to jump out moments before the vehicle burst into flames.
News24 reported on Monday that police officers were forced to flee and abandon their armoured vehicle after a group of students attacked them.
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane condemned the violence on Tuesday, urging WSU management and students to meet and come up with a solution.
"Violent protests are illegal and unproductive, and we urge students to refrain from that kind of behaviour as it also puts their lives and the lives of other people in danger. Solutions are easily found through talks than in confrontations. The leadership of students and management must sit down and iron out issues so that lessons can resume. Covid-19 impacted studies last year, we must not waste this academic year," Mabuyane said.
WSU spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said the situation across all campuses was tense but stable on Tuesday.
"We have not had any running battles between security personnel and students on our campuses. At this stage, we have not yet assessed the extent of the damages because our campuses are closed. Our staff members cannot access our campuses to quantify the damages that have been made,” said Tukwayo.
National police commissioner General Khehla John Sitole has given Eastern Cape commissioner Lieutenant General Liziwe Ntshinga 72 hours to assemble a team to catch the suspects "for undermining the authority of the state".
"Members from the POP Unit must be commended for practising restraint and enforcing the law within the parameters as set out by the constitution when they came under attack," Sitole said.
WSU’s Institutional Student Representative Council president Phelo Matentamo said: "Obviously we as student leaders do not condone violence at any point, whether by armed guards, police or on the side of students who always find themselves at the receiving end of brutality.
"There are many accusations that students have destroyed University properties where in some instances it is not true."