Acting national police chief Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane on Monday refused to give a commitment that there would be no further fatalities as the #FeesMustFall protest intensified at university campuses across South Africa.
“I am not going to put my neck on the block and say there will never be a loss of life because you see how irresponsible people [protesters] are. The situation continues to escalate so it is a situation we must all manage. The SA Police Service [SAPS] will do their best to de-escalate the the situation,” Phahlane told reporters in Pretoria.
Phahlane said the students’ protests had been hijacked by political agendas.
“Part of the agenda of those who have infiltrated is to drive us to a point where someone is killed by police so that they could prove a point. As the SAPS we are going to work hard to ensure that we protect lives and property. It is not our wish to see lives being lost but on the contrary, we would like to see lives protected as well as property,” said Phahlane.
However, Phahlane said, at this stage there was no need to declare a state of emergency.
“We cannot see ourselves in a state of emergency now. When the need arises, there are processes to be activated. We believe that we are too far from a state of emergency. This is an issue we are grappling with in confined spaces – the institutions of learning,” said Phahlane.
“These are supposed to be places where people go and learn, are developed to be better leaders of tomorrow [but] unfortunately it seems as if we’re breeding a crop of leaders that this country is going to regret.”
Earlier, Phahlane lamented the levels of violence and vandalism accompanying the ongoing #FeesMustFall protests at South African universities.
“The Dangerous Weapons Act of 2013 and the Regulations of Gatherings Act of 1993 provide for the rights of citizens to gather peacefully, but to do so without bearing dangerous weapons, inflicting harm on others or damaging property or infrastructure,” he told the media briefing after violence spilled over from the University of the Witwatersrand campus to the streets of Johannesburg.
“In order to ensure peace and stability and to protect the life and property of people in South Africa, the SA Police Service will enforce these acts decisively,” he said.
Phahlane called on student leaders, protesting students and all interested parties to act with the utmost restraint and calm.
“We also request academics to be true academics and not make inflammatory remarks that could tend to exacerbate the situation. We thank the students at the universities which have maintained a calm presence during the course of today,” said Phahlane.
“The SAPS members on duty today and over the past weeks are commended on their discipline and commitment. Theirs is not an easy task. They have been called upon to protect lives and property in the middle of a dispute that is not of their making.”
The police chief said criminality, intimidation and attacks on police officers have taken place at some universities, leaving the police officers with no option but to respond with “a degree of force” in order to stabilise the situation.
– African News Agency (ANA)
Wits University digs in amid protest
Management at Witwatersrand University (Wits) has vowed that academic activities would continue despite violent clashes between protesters and police on Monday.
Spokesperson Shirona Patel said management resolved that classes would continue if it was safe to do so.
“Several of Wits’ classes on various campuses are continuing today, albeit with low numbers. Where heads of schools feel it is safe, classes should resume,” the institution said.
The university said it had tried to hold a “two-way” imbizo with students facilitated by an independent facilitator, but was threatened by students.
“We cannot allow students to violate the rules of the university and bring about an imbizo through threats. This is not democratic behaviour,” she said.
Students refused to meet with management and indicated the protests were a national fight to send a “strong collective message” of system shutdown to government, said Patel.
Running battles between students and police spilled over on to the streets of Braamfontein as students took their protests outside campus following violent clashes earlier in front of the Great Hall.
Protesters blocked traffic and stoned some of the passing vehicles along Jorrissen Street. Police used teargas and stun grenades to disperse them. Businesses in Braamfontein closed shop and running battles ensued in the streets.
A bus was set alight in Braamfontein CBD.
Two students had been arrested and charged with public violence.
Violent protests erupt at UKZN Westville campus
Police and students engaged in running battles at the Westville campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) on Monday morning.
The day began with a stand-off between students and university security but erupted in violence when students started charging at security after police withdrew.
The students, numbering well over a thousand, stormed a security vehicle at the quadrangle on campus and overturned a security vehicle after security personnel abandoned it.
Police returned, and a battle began in the university residences just below the main university campus.
Students threw rocks and other objects, including ironing boards, tables and chairs, while police responded with rubber bullets, stun grenades and teargas.
Fridges were dragged out to be used as shields, while fire extinguishers were also deployed by the students, a number of who masked their faces.
One police officer was injured when a bottle struck him on the arm, and he was taken away by paramedics.
A fire was also started in the toilets of the students’ union building, while firehoses were also opened by protesting students.
The eThekwini fire brigade was on standby throughout Monday morning.
Roads throughout the campus was littered with debris.
Chaos erupts at Wits campus
Fresh clashes between private security guards and protesting Wits students erupted on Monday afternoon in front of the Great Hall.
Irate students have been demanding to be allowed inside the Solomon Mahlangu house, but the security guards refused.
The students then shouted at them to move before counting down from 10, but the guards stood their ground. Within seconds protesting students started hurling stones at the guards who were protecting themselves with shields.
One of the student leaders, Vuyani Pambo, earlier warned student might take matters into their own hands if the guards did not allow them inside.
At least two students were seen being arrested before the clashes, as protesters disrupted classes that had resumed in the morning after being suspended for a week.
The protests followed Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande’s announcement that universities could make individual decisions to increase tuition fees for 2017, but should not exceed eight percent.
The university had resolved to open on Monday after classes were suspended for about two weeks as the academic programme was disrupted.
Vuyani Pambo, a member of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC), addressed the students, saying they were waiting the dean of students to let them into the Great Hall.
Pambo said they had sent a message to the dean to remove private security guards so students could make their way to Solomon Mahlangu House.
“The security guards must not test us. They should let us in, as they’ve been peaceful, with or without the police in campus,” Pambo said.
He also said Wits was not a place to engage physically, but mentally.
Pambo had tweeted in the morning, saying that they would not meet government officials were trying to set up meetings with protesting students if their demands for free education were not met.
“The state is following us and wants to coerce us into meeting with them. To meet them privately is to sell out. No private meetings. It’s 4am in the morning, the state throught its spy has found us,” Pambo tweeted.
“We refuse to meet [President Jacob] Zuma or [Minister of Intelligence] [David] Mahlobo in private. Mass meeting resolved.”
UP students disrupt staff meetings
University of Pretoria (UP) students marched across the Hatfield campus on Monday, interrupting planned staff meetings held to discuss the protests for free education.
After a night vigil on Sunday night, Fees Must Fall students invaded several buildings to disrupt meetings.
— Rorisang Kgosana (@therealrorisang) October 10, 2016
Fees Must Fall students’ representative Marcus Mashinini said they were against engagements on a departmental level, as all stakeholders and students should meet for an open dialogue.
“It’s not right that they are having a meeting per faculty because some students who are for this movement could be victimised by their faculty. We demand that we all meet together,” he told The Citizen.
Mashinini said they called for the suspensions of several protesting students to be withdrawn to allow fair engagements.
Angry protesters sprinted to the JJ Theron Lecture Hall, forcing their way through security and police to disrupt yet another meeting.
Police used force to remove them from entering the building, but a few managed to slip in.
The university had postponed their reopening on Monday to allow for discussions between stakeholders, students and staff on free higher education.
UP spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer said the meetings would take place throughout the day.
We’re shutting down UP – Fees Must Fall protesters
Learning will not resume at the University of Pretoria (UP) until academic fees are scrapped, prominent student activist Vusi Mahlangu vowed on Monday.
“The university had the intention of opening campus today. We are going to shut down everything. The students are resolute, and they have now been joined by workers. We are giving the university the chance to voluntarily shut down now in line with the national call for free education,” said the #FeesMustFall activist.
Mahlangu said the students would disrupt classes and the meetings scheduled to happen on campus on Monday.
“Currently we’re disrupting all kinds of that divide-and-rule tactic by the university. There are no classes taking places today, and we’re going to ensure that there are no classes. We’re calling on Professor Cheryl de la Rey [UP vice-chancellor] to come and march with us,” said Mahlangu.
“We’re calling on all these vice-chancellors to stop the rhetoric of saying they support free education only verbally. They must close campuses and join us in the marches. We don’t want their spiritual support.”
Mahlangu said students held a night vigil at the university entrance in Hatfield, demanding free education.
“The night vigil was aimed at galvanising the support of the students. We had over a thousand students here overnight. We had students from other institutions like the TUT [Tshwane University of Technology], Unisa [University of South Africa] and the Sefako Makgatho [Health Sciences] University supporting the vigil,” said Mahlangu.
On Monday morning, several police officers and university security officials in riot gear were at the university entrance. When the gates were closed after 9am, several students started climbing above the security checkpoint to make their way on to the campus.
Mahlangu said the heightened security was not a deterrent to the protesters.
“These police officers are human beings. They themselves are in that so-called missing middle. They support the call for free education. We have been engaging them. We are trying to win them over. But we must also state that we cannot be intimidated. Regarding these other ones [campus security], the hooligans, we’re going to beat them up,” he said.
UP spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer said the institution’s academic programmes remain suspended.
“Already today, we have cancelled a meeting which had been scheduled because of the presence of protesters on campus,” she said.
The university was denying media access to the campus.
Non-protesting Wits students forced to leave lecture rooms
Protesting students from Wits University in Johannesburg are now planning to go and call on non-protesting students to vacate lecture rooms.
Addressing protesters who converged in front of the Great Hall, Busisiwe Seabe from the Fees Must Fall movement said they would continue making sure all Wits campuses remained shut.
“Comrades we are just waiting for students from other campus, and once they arrive, we will all move as a collective to ensure that this university remains shut.
“Let us not also engage in violence but continue to make sure the university operations remain suspended,” Seabe said.
Also in attendanc was Bishop Jo Seoka, who has been acting as one of mediators in the fees debacle. Seoka called on students not to be violent, saying if that happened, police would release their dogs on them.
Earlier in the morning, university spokesperson Shirona Patel said lectures resumed in most campuses. Meanwhile a huge police presence is also visible on the main campus.
The protest action was sparked by an announcement by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande a few weeks ago, saying it was up to universities to determine tuition fee increases.
Wits will not reopen – Mcebo Dlamini
It remains to be seen if classes at Wits University will resume on Monday. This as the student protest over free education enters its fourth week.
Protesting students could be seen dancing and chanting to liberation songs in front of the Wits Great Hall. A general assembly was supposed to have been held on Friday last week but was postponed, a move that left several students unhappy.
Former SRC president at Wits Mcebo Dlamini told The Citizen on Sunday that there was no way they were going to allow the university to reopen, stressing that their fight for free education for all continued.
He said should it happen that blood spilt on campus, it would be on the hands of the university management.
There is also a huge police presence from the main entrance going right inside campus, with motorists expected to produce identification cards.
Meanwhile, on the stairs of the Great Hall, private security guards could be seen standing in a line holding shields and batons. A water cannon and two police nyalas (police armoured vehicles) were also seen parked inside the Wits main campus.
The protests by students started off at Wits before rapidly spreading to other universities around the country following the announcement by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande that it was up to universities to determine tuition fee increases.