Durban - Masked men carrying sticks and bricks terrorised students at the University of KwaZulu Natal, ordering them off the Westville campus on Monday morning.
First year students, reporting for the start of the university’s academic year, were greeted by more than 500 protesting students, burning tyres and throwing rocks.
Many were forced out of lecture halls and the cafeteria.
From 7am, unknown masked men – wearing caps, and bandanas over their mouths – ordered students to get off of campus.
Police and campus security stabilised the situation and have been locked in meetings with university officials about the protest.
Langelihle Lukhozi, SRC president for Westville campus, told the Daily News that a number of students were protesting and not attending class. But, he did not know what the protest was about.
Lukhozi said he would be meeting with the students later today.
First year student Joelle Francis was waiting for her accounting lecture at the cafeteria when two masked men carrying sticks ordered the students out of the cafeteria.
“They just came from one side and shouted really loud for us to get out. Hundreds of students in the cafeteria started running,” she said.
Francis, who said she was “bored” by being at home for so long, said the masked men did not physically attack anyone.
But she was still scared.
Shomalia Ramkisson and Telisha Govender, first year science students, were waiting for the lecturer to arrive at about 9am, when the masked men ordered them out of the lecture theatre.
They said the men were carrying bricks and flung them into lecture room.
Said Govender: “We don’t know who they are, they just walked in and started shouting ‘get out, get out’. It’s very annoying. I feel like I’m being robbed of my education. We were supposed to get a textbooks list today.
“This is going to affect the syllabus because we its already February and we don’t know how long this will go on for,” she said.
The girls said they were leaving to go to their homes in Phoenix.
They said they had been told that lectures had been postponed for the day.
A first year accounting student from Pietermaritzburg said he was asleep at the campus residence, when he was awoken by a loud bang on his door.
Someone was screaming at him to get out.
Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane, said about 500 students protested at the UKZN Westville campus on Monday morning.
“They are blocking the roads with burning tyres, dust bins and stones. Windows and trees have been damaged. Police are at the scene to monitor the protests,” he said.
It is unclear whether today’s protest is linked to an illegal protest held at UKZN’s Howard College campus last Monday after registration, funding and residence concerns were raised.
According to the Pietermaritzburg campus Student Representative Council (SRC) president, Lungani Nhlenyama, seven students had been arrested for public violence last week.
Nhlenyama said: “We were carrying ANC posters and singing (last week). University management didn’t understand and threatened to arrest us.”
Nhlenyama denied any violent activity.
“The students were arrested on Thursday and bailed out from prison on Friday.”
He said the Westville campus protests were not connected to the arrests in Pietermaritzburg.
Zwane confirmed that suspects aged 20 and 24 were arrested last Thursday for public violence. They appeared in court on Friday.
University spokesman Lesiba Seshoka confirmed a small group of protestors had disrupted access to the Westville campus this morning.
“We have received reports that the protestors are disrupting lectures in some lecture theatres on campus.
“We remind students that the University obtained a High Court interdict and restraining order last week protecting the University against unlawful protests, disruptive gatherings, demonstrations, mass action, intimidation or any violent act to persons or property at the entrance and premises of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s campuses.”