Pretoria - Was it the ANC, the EFF, students from Tshwane University of Technology or was it Cosas?
Even before the dust had settled on a Pretoria rocked by the chaos of Friday’s student gathering at the Union Buildings, accusations were flying about who was responsible for the violence and upheaval.
The mayhem started when police pushed the students into the CBD in a bid to clear the grounds. As thousands crammed into central Pretoria, student marshals tried to get students onto the waiting buses. But the traffic was gridlocked and a rowdy group prevented them from leaving.
Former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini phoned a Joburg radio station, saying students were being stopped from leaving.
On Friday the ANC and the Progressive Youth Alliance blamed the violence on “agent provacteurs”.
In a statement, Sasco said: “We believe that the confrontation... was as a result of this prolonged meeting whereby students started to feel agitated and became impatient.” It condemned “in the strongest terms acts of violence and hooliganism from some of our comrades, together with other structures”.
Social media was buzzing with accusations about who caused the violence.
Wits student Katleho Sekhoto, who was among those forced off the buses by a mob intent on torching the vehicles, managed to call her mom to tell her she was safe. “Mama, Franz, our lecturer is here. I’m coming home with him in his car.”
Soon afterwards buses managed to reroute and drive to their destinations.
Meanwhile in Arcadia, looting had spread to Church Street. One of the victims was Aliba Ali, owner of Chickita Restaurant. The windows were smashed while frightened staff hid.
“Students forced the doors open and came in. They took the till and threw it on the street,” said Ali.
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Immediately after Zuma made the announcement that there would be a zero percent fee increase, some students who were inside the Union Buildings gardens flew into a rage and hurled rocks and bricks at the police. Seconds later tear gas canisters from the police flew like missiles into the crowd, causing the students to scatter.
It was unknown by on Friday night how many students were injured. Some of the injured were being carried by their peers. Apparently a number were taken to various hospitals within the city.
According to Dzunani Mdluli, a law student at Unisa, the violence erupted when those who were at the front started to push the police officers who were attempting to restore order.
Joseph Tewson, who is studying towards a Master’s degree in anatomy at Wits, said he felt ashamed of how they conducted themselves as students.
“It didn’t matter who told us; the point is we had achieved our objective. The small percentage of students who were being violent did not represent the majority of us who heeded the call for peace,” he said.
Traffic was severely affected, and cars, including two police vans, were set alight.
By sunset, marshals were still trying to get students onto the buses. Wits SRC president Nompendulo Mkhatshwa would not comment on the chaos, but said she wanted to get the students home safely.
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