Pretoria - Students of the Medical University of SA (Medunsa) vowed to stay away from class until the charges of malicious damage to property faced by five of their colleagues were dropped.
They abandoned classes and flocked to the Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court on Monday, to support the five who were arrested over the weekend for damage to property during recent strike action at the Medunsa campus.
Among the arrested students was the president of the student representative council, Malose Marakalala, who emerged from the courthouse to address the students, and encourage them not to go back to class until all charges were dropped.
“We will not go back to school until these charges are dropped,” he told the waiting students, who chanted and shouted their agreement. Tensions had been high outside the court while proceedings continued in court, while others stayed inside the buses used to ferry them to court.
Marakalala was arrested on Saturday, together with Tshepo Lerumo, King Maswanganyi, Sydney Magagula and Mluleki Maphumula, for their alleged role in the damage to university property during a riot in mid-July.
They were part of a group of students who allegedly broke into the administration building in search of seven lecturers they wanted off the campus, over allegations of the victimisation of fifth year paediatric students. The students had broken open the main door and rampaged through the building, smashing glass and dislodging fire extinguishers along the way, before partially breaking open the door to the executive suite.
During the three-week strike, students had locked staff outside the campus and burnt two campus vehicles, before an agreement was reached with the university administration.
University management had then called the police in to view footage of the damage to property, resulting in the arrests.
The student body pledged their solidarity with the arrested five and went to court on Monday morning, and agreed not to go back to school until the charges were dropped.