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UWC staff ‘attacked by students’

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The University of the Western Cape says campus staff were attacked by protesting students on Wednesday morning.

In a statement, it said its fire and medical officer was attacked while a female security officer was threatened at knifepoint.

University spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said five students were arrested in connection with the assault on the officer, who was apparently beaten with a fire extinguisher by a group of 15 students.

He said the fire and medical officer was attacked when he responded to fire alarms set off by the protesting students. Students had apparently started fires in rubbish bins outside residences.

“Upon his arrival, he was attacked and badly assaulted by the protesting group,” he said.

“The fire and medical officer has been rushed to hospital for medical attention.”

Tyhalibongo said the protesting students were also throwing stones at security personnel and damaging university property. They had broken several windows in residence buildings.

He said students were heavily armed with sjamboks and knobkieries.

Tyhalibongo said a female security officer was assaulted and threatened at knife point.

Students were meant to write exams on Wednesday but mayhem erupted just before midday.

Exams were halted at the Cape Town and Bellville campus as a result.

News24 reporter Tammy Petersen said the university’s finance office was set alight, one of several fires protesters were continuing to set.

Students say they were supposed to write their exams at 12:30.

“But before midday, things just went crazy,” one student said.

“Bricks were flying and we were locked in the library. I tried to hide because I was afraid I would get hurt. I just want to get home now. It’s too volatile here.”

While it was not yet clear what sparked the protests, Tyhalibongo said a splinter group of the #FeesMustFall movement set about starting fires in the bins at residences.

Riot police were present and stun grenades were fired earlier.

According to a SRC member, the university council was supposed to meet with the #FeesMustFall movement on Tuesday but failed to do so. This was understood to be the reason behind the protests.

Petersen said protesting students have demanded that no exams be written. News24

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