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Durban - Four protesting students were arrested following clashes with police and security guards at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Durban campus on Monday, as anger over accommodation again brought the institution to a standstill.
Police spokesman Thulani Zwane said that the four were arrested for contravening a court interdict the university secured on March 12, prohibiting protests on campus. “Police will continue to monitor the situation,” he said.
The illegal protest began before 9am, when students called non-protesting students out of lectures.
Waving sticks, planks and poles, they marched through faculty buildings until all lectures had ceased.
In the science building, the floor shook when protesters chanted and stamped until those attending class left.
Security guards watched helplessly after unsuccessfully attempting to block the entrance.
A student who was recording the proceedings on his cellphone was accosted by protesters who grabbed the device and looked through the footage before giving it back.
The rest of the march was met with less confrontation, as the remaining lecture rooms had been cleared before the protesters arrived.
They made their way to the entrance, where police and guards took advantage of their position and formed a human barricade, not allowing them back in. Students then tried to outflank them, but were met with physical contact by security guards and police, using pepper spray.
A senior policeman said that they were enforcing the interdict, and would not allow the students access to the university.
The president of the student representative council Sandile Ngcobo said that the protest would continue until their agreed accommodation at the Royal Hotel, in central Durban, was made available. “We are tired of the university’s empty promises,” said Ngcobo.
He also called on the institution’s vice-chancellor, William Makgoba, to be held accountable for their predicament.
Students are staying in hotels on the beachfront after the university moved them from “unsafe” temporary accommodation in the Point area. They had been at the Coastlands Hotel owing to problems with their permanent accommodation, but their booking ended.
When The Mercury contacted Ngcobo to ask whether there had been any progress, he said he was in hiding as police were looking to arrest him.
Second-year law student Bright Mabaso said that agreements between students and the university were not fulfilled. “They keep on sending e-mails, telling the media it is all under control - it is not.”
Mabaso said that he shared a room with five other people, and slept on a couch.
University spokeswoman Nomonde Mbadi confirmed that they were “unable to move the students as planned from their temporary accommodation”, but were working on a solution.
“The university has given the accommodation matter high priority and we are hopeful a permanent solution will be in place, soon. The affected students have been informed,” she said.