There was mayhem at the University of the Western Cape on Wednesday after a flare up of action from some 100 students on campus led to police firing rubber bullets and stun grenades. Reports and images of vandalism from protesting students circulated on social media. The South African Police Service and Public Order Police were on campus but Lukhanyiso Madese, Deputy Chairperson of the Student Representative Council says students had to be evacuated during examinations as protest action took a violent turn.
“Some people were seen throwing bricks at police and breaking windows. Students were forced to leave the exam room for fear of these individuals. While we support the Fees Must Fall Campaign and stand behind protesting students, we cannot condone violence and vandalism,” Madese said.
Protesters burnt tyres and attempted to break doors to gain entrance to locked buildings. Some reports suggest a paramedic had been injured after protesters tried to burn down one of the residences.
While UWC management condemned the recent demonstrations, students maintain that action will continue until all their demands are met. Examinations which had been cancelled on Wednesday have now been postponed to next month.
Elsewhere, students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) say there are concerns for the safety of students on campus, following the suspected arson attack on a Jammie Shuttle on Wednesday morning. While examinations are underway, students were seen leaving campus on Wednesday afternoon. Speaking to VOC News, UCT student, Mariam Sengi said she had just deferred her first examination due to the security concerns.
“There were security all around us, as the exam began, right in front of me I could see two security personnel manning the entrances and exits. I have never written exams in an environment like that and I could not concentrate at all so I decided to defer and write in January. I know this will be a huge inconvenience for me and my family but I really don’t feel safe here,” Sengi explained.
Other students say they are not directly affected by protest action from a minority of students on campus but believe that now is the time to rather focus on academic performance and put aside the Fees Must Fall Campaign until exams have concluded.
“I have no issues with the protest action, in fact I do believe in the Fees Must Fall Campaign however, I do not agree with protesting students who continue to disrupt classes and infringe on the rights of those who actually want to focus on their exams,” said one student, who wished to remain anonymous.
“I think that currently the drastic protest action by some students serves no purpose and is being done for their own personal enjoyment.” VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)