A students residence was reduced to ashes overnight. Picture: @StephenTau

Johannesburg- Youth and student organisations on Thursday condemned the violent protest at Gauteng’s Vaal University of Technology Vanderbijlpark campus that saw buildings torched, with many blaming the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) for the violence at the institution.

The African National Congress-aligned South African Students’ Congress (SASCO) and the Young Communist League of SA (YCLSA) condemned the burning of some of the VUT buildings, and blamed the EFF Student Command (EFFSC) for the violence that they said accompanied protests at education institutions since the arrival of the EFF in politics three years ago.

“Ever since the EFF entered the political space, they have targeted learning sites as their primary place of anarchy. Whereas SASCO promotes the right of all aggrieved to lawfully protest to voice out concerns, we are gravely disturbed by the sub-culture of destruction of property during these. The EFF has been promoting lawlessness and anarchy, especially at learning sites. This is a calculated move aimed at causing instability in the country, as they have no interest in the pursuits of academic excellence and success,” the organisation said.

The police should investigate and arrest those involved at crimes committed at VUT, while management should respond to the students’ grievances, restore calm and allow students to prepare for exams in a safe environment, said SASCO.

YCLSA secretary Khaya Xaba said the EFFSC was “well-known for anarchic behaviour”.

“The YCLSA suspects the involvement of the EFF Student Command who are well-known hooligans and known for anarchic behavior. As the YCLSA we condemn the use of vandalism to raise pertinent issues, and equally condemn those who hijack genuine students demands for their own narrow political agendas. We also call on the university to take students’ demands very seriously, this is not the first time the issue of safety has been raised at VUT,” Xaba said.

EFFSC president Mpho Morolane denied the allegations against his organisation and said SASCO was “using every tactic” to win back universities.

“This is not the first time allegations were made against the EFFSC. They [SASCO] want the university [VUT] back as they lost it, and they will continue to fail in their attempts to demoralise the EFFSC. Students identify with the EFFSC and our policies. We respect the law and the constitution of this country, we do not condone any destruction of property,” Morolane said.

He said attempts to meet with the VUT Vice Chancellor and Principal Irene Moutlana on Thursday drew a blank after the university instructed staff and students to vacate the campus by 2pm, following the torching of university property overnight.

“We will continue to protest at VUT until our demands are met, but we will not tolerate the damaging and burning of university property.”

The EFFSC won the VUT SRC elections last year, removing SASCO from the student leadership.

Protesting students demanded the withdrawal of criminal charges against students charged with damage to property and grievous bodily harm to fellow students, the lifting of their suspensions and the removal of the outsourced campus security company, among their list of grievances.

A students’ residence was reduced to ashes overnight. An entertainment venue on the campus was also vandalised.

Secretary of the Pan Africanists Student Movement of Azania (PASMA), Justis Digashu, called for the return of the suspended students and that perpetrators at VUT be arrested.

“Burning of university property can never serve as a barometer in measuring the worth of issues against the university or show dissatisfaction in how the university management responds to issues of concerns and runs its affairs. We remain resolute on the issues raised and believe that with the collective vision to sustain and bring order to the university the issues raised by student leadership and structures must be responded to and addressed.”

African News Agency