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Pretoria - Three union members were taken to hospital and a woman fell down a flight of stairs after scuffles broke out on Thursday at Unisa’s Pretoria campus between Nehawu and Sasco members and members of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters.
After a few hours of the two groups taunting each other, violence broke out in spite of a heavy police and security presence.
Malema was supposed to address a seminar on land reform but the event, organised by the Academics and Professional Staff Association, was cancelled at the last minute by the university.
Unisa spokesman Martin Ramotshela said permission had initially been given for the talk but when other groups on the campus objected, the university had withdrawn permission. “We did not want there to be a clash between any groups,” he said.
EFF supporters and members of the SA Students Congress (Sasco) hurled insults at each other in song. Sasco Unisa chairman Solly Nkuna said the organisation had “vowed to disrupt any talk given by Malema”.
“We took a position that non-students are not going to enter or participate. We will destabilise everything until such a point that students are the only ones left inside.”
He accused university management of turning Unisa into a platform for unhappy former ANC members.
“We realise that Unisa, instead of being an institute of learning, is becoming a platform for those expelled from the ANC,” Nkuna said.
In the scuffles Thandiwe Mohlala, who works at the National Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) office on campus, was pushed and fell down a flight of stairs, injuring her left leg.
“I was able to go to the campus clinic but my leg is still very painful. I will lay charges because this thing has to be escalated.”
According to Nehawu secretary Ntsako Nombelani, three Nehawu staff members were injured during the fight and had to be taken to hospital. He said they would lay charges against EFF.
Addressing his supporters on the stairs to the ZK Matthews Hall, Malema said: “No white men must leave their land because they are forced. You’re our brothers, but we can’t have greedy brothers. We want a peaceful process. Those who have taken our land must not be arrogant,” he said.
Referring to the Sasco and Nehawu members, Malema told his supporters: “You must manhandle them if need be. We must never behave like cowards. We have permission to be here and these ANC hooligans want to disrupt our meeting.
“Management cancelled our meeting but we are defying them. We cannot be told by the apartheid ANC when to meet and not to meet.”
He said he realised his supporters would be severely punished if they took land without compensation.
“We know once we take this land forcefully, they will use the economy to fight us.”
He told the large crowd which had gathered to listen to him that Africa was rich, while Africans were poor.
He said the Europeans on the continent were richer than the natives.
“That has to change,” he said.
He sought to assure white people that genocide would not be committed to get the land back, and said they were brothers who had a right to live in the country.
“We know that the only reason you have a big wall around your property is because you don’t want the revolution to catch you one day. If you give back land and the black majority has bread on their table, you will be able to only worry about watering your lawn.”
He encouraged whites to agree to land distribution without compensation, and not to listen to the ANC as it could not guarantee their safety.
He said the question of what the people would do with the land should not be an issue, as Africans had worked the land long before being colonised.
Whites had only brought ways of working the land faster.
Malema criticised the university’s management for denying him entry into the hall, and said he was one of its registered students and had a right to be there.