UCT conceded last night that student leader Masixole Mlandu’s continued imprisonment had become a stumbling block in negotiations with protesting students.
This was stated after a day of running clashes between protesters, private security and police on the campus.
Eight students were taken into custody, of whom four were later released after police had confiscated three containers filled with faeces. Chaos ensued after protesters who had entered the main library were confronted by police and security personnel.
Mlandu is being held in Pollsmoor Prison after being arrested for breaching his bail conditions – a week after being released on bail. He is one of five students interdicted from entering UCT after the #Shackville protest early this year.
Student activist Simon Rakei accused private security of using excessive force to contain protesters. “One student was beaten and bleeding from his face, and a female student was dragged by her hair before they were pepper-sprayed,” he said.
He blamed the university’s management for what was happening on the campus, saying it was setting itself up for failure.
“They are providing services online, which is not sustainable or accessible to all the students. How can you prepare for exams in these conditions on campus?” Rakei said.
He said there was enough time to deal with the issues and to prepare for exams. But he accused UCT of negotiating in bad faith. This was causing delays, he said.
“Masixole Mlandu is still in Pollsmoor, while another cadre is facing a disciplinary tribunal. The university knows we cannot negotiate when our members face these situations,” he said.
UCT spokesperson Pat Lucas said the university did not condone the “alleged actions” which led to Mlandu landing behind bars.
“(The) progress of mediated negotiations with protest leaders has been compromised by his arrest and detention as he is one of the representatives in the mediation.
“UCT has therefore indicated it will not oppose his application for bail, but required him to commit to observing the UCT code of conduct in the future,” she said, adding that yesterday’s events on campus unfolded rapidly.
“Protesters blocked Baxter Road, then moved towards Kopano residence. Police fired stun grenades and a smoke grenade to disperse the crowd.
“Protesters regrouped and marched through Lower Campus, and a fire extinguisher was set off at the School of Economics. But protesters were prevented from entering it and the Kramer Law buildings,” said Lucas.
She said a group of protesters broke into the main library on Upper Campus and forced its closure.
Public order police, together with private security, tried to bring the situation under control, she said.
“On Monday night, five containers of raw sewage were found and removed at the School of Economics building on Middle Campus, and the Steve Biko Students’ Union building on Upper Campus.
“A car carrying four students and sewage canisters was intercepted, and the students apprehended and later released by police,” said Lucas.
She said UCT condemned these actions, which also posed a health risk to people in the building. UCT vice-chancellor Max Price issued a statement reaffirming the institution’s commitment to completing the academic year.
“While we will engage the security that is needed to continue with the academic programme as planned, we believe that a sustainable solution will more likely be achieved if we can find agreement and compromise.
“In view of this, we remain open to engaging with the protesting students, who are largely represented by the group called the SRC candidates,” said Price.
He said any agreement reached will need to be based on a mutual understanding.