Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bombs and Burning Buildings on South African Campuses
12 OCTOBER 2016 - 11:02 AM
Business Day Live

Students set a bus on fire in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on 10 October 2016. Some said 'criminal elements' may have been involved.  Picture: ALON SKUY

The situation at SA’s institutions of higher learning remains tense, with reports of bombs being found and buildings burning, and the arrest of students.

• Fort Hare: 36 students arrested

• CPUT: The Cape Peninsula University of Technology denies a security guard died after being locked in a burning building at its Bellville campus

• Wits: At least three petrol bombs found, and clergy members form buffer between police and students

• UKZN: Two buildings set alight on Pietermaritzburg campus

• Tshwane University of Technology: main campus shut down by protesting students

• Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University: nine students arrested

• The South African Students Congress (Sasco) in Gauteng called for a complete shutdown of all campuses in the province.

• University of Johannesburg: march expected

Fort Hare

Thirty-six University of Fort Hare students will appear in the East London Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday for public violence.

The group was arrested on Tuesday night after they shut down Fleet Street in the East London suburb of Quigney.

The students‚ who were standing on the rooftop of the university’s residence‚ were stoning cars and people passing by.

The students also used road construction traffic management tools to block the road while they set fires on the streets in the neighbourhood.

A police officer at the scene said police had moved in on the students to restore calm in the area.

“Police arrested 36 of them. They will be charged with public violence‚” he said.


The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) on Wednesday moved quickly to dismiss reports that a security guard had died after being locked in a burning building at its Bellville campus.

CPUT ?@CPUT tweeted: “2 security guards based at BV were rushed to hospital this morning. 1 is in critical condition. Reports that guard has died‚ are incorrect.”

This after the university’s international relations department had tweeted: “Intern’l Affairs ?@cputoia: “Condolences to the fam of fallen #CPUT security officer who passed as result of injuries sustained in last nights arson attack #CPUTShutdown.”

The university’s spokesperson‚ Lauren Kansley‚ had earlier said: “Charges of attempted murder were laid after protesters locked two security guards inside a burning building. The guards suffered mostly smoke inhalation injuries and are now stable.”

Theo Lane‚ media liaison for Cape Town’s fire and rescue services‚ put the number inside the building at three: “A section of the building was alight when we arrived. We subsequently found three adult males who had sustained lacerations and smoke inhalation.”

He said they “were treated on the scene … and were taken to hospital”.

Kansley said: “The latest attacks follow an afternoon [on Tuesday] of running battles with SAPS and security where at least 19 arrests were made across our Bellville‚ Cape Town and Mowbray campuses.”

She said classes remain suspended due to the violence and “alternative forms of tuition and assessment are being explored”. These include securing off-site venues.


Three petrol bombs were found on campus as the University of the Witwatersrand prepared to continue with academic activities on Wednesday.

Student newspaper IG: WitsVuvuzela ?@WitsVuvuzela tweeted: “3 #petrolbombs found in a backpack on @WitsUniversity campus while two were found outside #JohnMoffatt building‚ according to @shirona37.”

Wits spo

Spokesperson Shirona Patel confirmed the discovery of the bombs on the West Campus.

The John Moffat Building had also been targeted on Tuesday‚ when a fire was started in the basement and its windows were smashed by protesting students. The fire was quickly extinguished.

In September‚ three petrol bombs were discovered at Wits when protests turned violent in the week after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement about over fee hikes for 2017. Student leaders at the time accused Wits management of planting them to discredit their protest.

At Wits on Tuesday‚ the FNB Building had to be evacuated after “a suspicious parcel was found”‚ but this‚ Wits said‚ turned out to be “a firecracker”.

Despite this‚ Wits said: “We are reviewing camera footage to try to track down the person who left the package in the building.”

Members of the clergy were on campus at Wits on Wednesday morning, acting as peacemakers and as a buffer between students and police.

Bishop Gary Rivas from the Methodist Church said about 40 members of the clergy from different denominations were at Wits and he was expecting more.

“Our number one task is to be a buffer zone and insure there is no violence,” Rivas said.

The situation at Wits is calm with only a small number of students protesting peacefully on the square in front of the Great Hall. There is a heavy police presence on the campus.

Rivas said student leadership had asked the clergy to stand in as a buffer between police and students.

The church stood against any form of violence, irrespective of whether it came from police or students.

Catholic priest Father Graham Pugin was shot in the face with a rubber bullet on Monday, as he stood as a human shield between police and students hiding at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein.

“We are not prepared to be used as a buffer zone for any form of retaliation, so our call for nonviolence includes throwing stones and being shot at with rubber bullets,” Rivas said.

But members of the clergy understood the risks of standing as a buffer between police and students, he said.

Rivas said the church had a multipronged approach to resolving the situation, with members of the clergy speaking to the government and to university management.

He said the biggest issue was that students felt they were not being heard by university management or government.

Rivas said the Methodist Church was completely behind the call for no fees.

The Wits SRC said that it planned to march from the Great Hall to the Hillbrow magistrate’s court to show support for students arrested during protests this week.


Two buildings were set alight in the early hours of Wednesday morning at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus.

Firefighters were called to put out two fires — one at the television lounge of the Malherbe Residence and another at the DSLT science building.

A number of female students — who asked not to be identified — whose rooms are next to the lounge‚ said they heard knocks on their doors at about 1am but were scared to leave the room.

“We were too afraid to open as we didn’t know whether it was protesters‚” said one of the students.

“We were petrified but we didn’t realise that it was related to the fire. We could have died if we didn’t smell the smoke and get out in time.”

Student residence liaison officer Vundla Ntokozo said the students didn’t condone the setting alight of campus venues.

“I highly doubts students could do such a thing and endanger other students. What we need is the intervention of our parents to come and talk to management about all of this because we no longer feel safe.”

He said students had nothing to gain from the burning of campus buildings.


Tshwane University of Technology’s (TUT) main campus in Pretoria West has been shut down by protesting students. Fires were reported to be burning at an entrance to its West campus.

While management had been hoping to reopen the campus on Wednesday‚ following an extended recess‚ students protesting for free education blocked its main entrance with burning tyres.

A number of police monitored the protest from outside the campus‚ while a police helicopter hovered above.

Students resolved at a mass meeting on Tuesday night to shut down the campus and followed this with a night vigil.

TUT management said the GaRankuwa campus has also been shut by protesting students.

Members of the ANC-aligned South African Students Congress‚ who had appeared to shun the 2016 round of #FeesMustFall protests‚ are also part of the protest at TUT.

Magnificent Mgwenya‚ secretary of the EFF Student Command (EFFSC)‚ has told Sowetan they want TUT officials to join the protests.

“As the EFFSC we have collaborated with other student structures. We’re saying we want fees to fall‚” said Mgwenya.

“We want free quality and decolonised education now. We’re going to shut down this university until [Higher Education and Training Minister] Blade Nzimande answers us. If he doesn’t‚ we’re going to [President] Jacob Zuma. That’s our message.

“We’re saying management of this university must be with us when we march. They’ve released a statement saying they support the call for free education. So we want them to come and march with us.

“Our battle is not against the university‚ that’s why we’re not burning any building or car. We understand that our war is against the government.

“We won’t retreat. No bullet is going to stop us.”

Willa de Ruyter‚ spokeswoman for the university‚ said management has advised staff at the main and GaRankuwa campuses to go home.

“We will continue to monitor the situation at all campuses‚” she said.

Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University

Nine students were arrested as buildings burned at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) in Limpopo on Tuesday.

The university – formerly known as Medunsa — had announced on Monday that classes would resume but students protested in solidarity with the nationwide Fees Must Fall campaign instead of attending classes.

Police spokeswoman Sally de Beer said a total of nine students were taken into custody.

“I can confirm that nine people were arrested at the Sefako Makgatho University yesterday and charged with public violence‚” De Beer said‚ adding that they would appear in court on Wednesday.

A lapa was also burnt on campus on Tuesday but it is not yet clear who torched the structure.

A photo posted on Facebook attempted to put the blame on a police officer.

SMU spokesperson Padi Matlala said the situation was calm at the university on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday’s disruptions‚ Matlala said: “Unfortunately‚ a small group of students decided to blockade the main entrance to the university and other access routes in breach of court order.

“After refusal of repeated requests to the small group of students by security and the police to refrain from these activities‚ the police were left with no other option but to act in accordance with the court interdict.”


Sasco’s national working committee last week asked President Jacob Zuma to meet students and higher education stakeholders within seven days, which he failed to do, Sasco said in a statement.

Sasco is calling for a provincial shutdown of all institutions of higher learning.

Sasco said it wanted Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to meet with student leaders and attend to the crisis in less than a week.

It called for the demilitarisation of campuses and the immediate removal of private security and police on campuses; and for the judicial commission on fees to submit its preliminary report immediately.

Sasco said education was a shared responsibility within the working-class community and therefore it called for a shutdown until the president and government as a whole take serious the call for Free Quality Education and commit on its implementation now.

“We have long accepted short term solutions on the question of Free Quality Education we have long negotiated the betterment of young people in this country who seek to better themselves through education we have long gone out in our millions to vote for this government which has for more than two decades promised on the implementation on Free Quality Education, NO MORE,” Sasco said in a statement.

University of Johannesburg

Protesting students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) are expected to march on Wednesday from UJ’s Auckland Park campus to the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein.

TMG Digital, Daily Dispatch, The Times and The Sowetan

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