THE University of the Western Cape suspended all face-to-face lectures yesterday as protesters and police were engaged in fierce battles near student residences.
Protesters hurled stones, pieces of paving and other projectiles at police through windows and from the top of buildings. They also burnt refuse bins. Police responded with rubber bullets.
University authorities cited “uncertainty around the stability and safety on campus” as a reason for the suspension of classes.
The clashes followed the passing of a deadline set by student protesters to the university, which had 48 hours in which to respond to all their demands.
The university authorities responded via e-mail yesterday. In a statement, the university said it would not attend a mass meeting, as it had been called to do.
It said the student demands had financial implications and called for third-party intervention.
With regards to demands centred on students facing criminal charges, the university pointed out that it was not the complainant and therefore charges could not be dropped by the institution.
The students were outraged. A student activist, who asked not to be named, said protesters would mobilise. She said any violence would be a result of the university militarising the campus.
"The university’s disregard for us shows their true intentions. They blatantly did not meet us and rather sent police to intimidate us.”
She said police had opened fire on them and students had scattered to find cover. Some ended up being injured.
Police spokesperson Sally de Beer said public order police were called in after students began setting bins on fire.
“They are best to deal with these situations as they are trained in crowd management,” De Beer said.
The university said: “We have convened an urgent special meeting of the senate executive committee to consider the way forward that will allow us to complete the 2016 academic year.”