“Rhodes Must Fall protesters have lost legitimacy for their cause, in the eyes of their fellow students.” This was the opinion of one University of Cape Town student, following a night of mayhem which saw students vandalizing university property and riot police firing stun grenades. Speaking to VOC on Wednesday morning, UCT student Muneeb Martin, who was an eyewitness to the unrest, said ordinary students were becoming increasingly frustrated with the tactics used by demonstrating activists.
“Being on campus last night, there was no way of assuring anybody’s safety. [The vandalism] makes it very difficult to support the cause when your safety is questioned,” said Martin.
The Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement brought the university to a standstill on Tuesday afternoon as numerous historical UCT artworks, a Jammie shuttle, and a car were set alight, and protesters were arrested.
After numerous requests were made by UCT management to the RMF to move the shack erected below Jameson steps, in the middle of Residence Road, at approximately 22:30 on Tuesday evening, police arrived on campus to remove the shack.
UCT management, on Tuesday, communicated to the protesters that the presence of the shack resulted in a backlog of traffic on the M3 “interfering with the freedom of movement of other staff and students.”
RMF members were informed in the letter that at 5pm on Tuesday, the shack would be moved if they had not already done so. After 5pm passed without the shack being removed, protesters entered Fuller Hall, a female residence on upper campus, and served themselves dinner.
Martin described his shock at seeing numerous paintings removed from Jameson Hall, Fuller Hall and Smuts Hall residences, prior to the arrival of the police. These artworks were subsequently set alight.
Public order police, accompanied by private security, then demolished the shack. The private security proceeded to chase after individuals in the surroundings, particularly members of the RMF movement.
Stun grenades were then fired for approximately half an hour.
Martin confirmed that “some [protesters] got harmed, and could not move.”
Official members of RMF, Martin confirmed, participated in the protest that resulted in the unrest, some of whom were arrested and taken to Rondebosch police station.
Some of the supporters of the movement made their way to the Rondebosch Police Station via Rondebosch Main Road to protest against the arrest of their comrades. These protesters were subsequently dispersed with stun grenades. The protesters then returned to lower campus where they proceeded to set a Jammie shuttle alight.
The debris from the various fires remains on the premises of the university.
Martin asserted that due to the unrest it became increasingly difficult for students to vacate the campus.
“The whole of Jammie steps was blocked,” Martin stated.
Martin confirmed that the shack has been removed; however the area, which the shack occupied, is cordoned off with police tape.
These events echo the events that unfolded at the University of the Western Cape in 2015, where vandalism amounting to millions occurred.
Martin noted that the mood on campus following the unrest was sombre. However, the general operation of the university is continuing.
VOC (Thakira Desai)