Cape Town - A clash between students and security officers took place at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on Wednesday, resulting in several injuries.
This came after 10 students at an off-campus postgraduate residence allegedly resisted their relocation.
Since Friday, UWC has been accused of evicting hundreds of students, leaving many to sleep outside or on the streets, while others locked themselves in their rooms to avoid what students branded an “eviction”.
UWC spokesperson Gasant Abarder said several security workers were assaulted yesterday. He said hot water was also thrown at security personnel.
“We note that vacation occupants resisting the relocation called the police who, after assessing the situation, assisted the UWC security staff who were being prevented from carrying out their duties,” Abarder said.
While videos and pictures of wounded students and security officers surfaced on social media, police spokesperson Joseph Swartbooi denied police used pepper spray against students.
“If, however, they feel strongly about the allegation, then they are free to register a criminal case for further investigation," Swartbooi said.
UWC's student representative council president Phumelelani Mshumi said students who did not have alternative accommodation must resist being relocated.
A student who asked to remain anonymous said that among the students protesting were those doing research and using the university’s laboratories, and those who had accepted job offers to pay for the 10% upfront payment demanded by the university for students to register at the beginning of the year.
He said the evictions started on Friday night, when some students returned to their residences to find they had been locked out. Others were told to vacate the buildings.
Abarder said there had been no evictions at UWC, and no such decision had been taken.
He said students had been relocated to alternative accommodation, and confirmed that placing vacation occupiers in alternative university-sanctioned accommodation did not amount to eviction.
He said no student or vacation accommodation occupant was entitled to permanently reside in a particular room or residence.
"Students are not always allocated the same room or residence for the vacation period or in any subsequent year," he said.
He said the alternative accommodation provided was a good-quality living environment that was close to relevant amenities.
"We are extremely disappointed that a few vacation occupants saw fit to burn a room at this residence. The fire was extinguished, and no student or staff member was injured in the fire," he said.
He said the situation was now calm. However, should there be continued non-compliance, internal disciplinary processes would be instituted against those students through the proctor’s office.