File picture: Sisonke Mlamla

Alice - Five students from the University of Fort Hare (UFH) Alice campus were shot and injured during a confrontation with police outside the university's main gate, UFH spokesperson Lizo Phiti said on Wednesday.

Phiti said the clash followed a mass meeting held at the Sports Complex on Tuesday, "after which students proceeded to the main gate and began throwing stones at police vehicles and other road users driving along King William's town into Alice - a public road which serves as a main access in and out of Alice".

Phiti said three of the injured students are receiving medical attention at Victoria Hospital while the other two has already been taken home by their parents.

"Hurling missiles in the direction of the main road poses a serious threat not only to police and state vehicles, but also to members of the university community, the general public and their assets. Business operations in Alice may also be impacted," Phiti said.

He said they condemn "all" manner of public safety violations by students. "This behaviour is disappointing because there is a scheduled meeting with student leaders on Friday, to give feedback on authentic issues raised during a meeting with management a week ago," he said.
Dean of Students, Malinge Gqeba said they will do whatever it takes to curb all forms of violence and irresponsible behaviour on their campus. 

"Teaching and learning must continue unhindered to make up for lost time. We urge for cooperation by all stakeholders," Gqeba said.

Police spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni said during the protest, the Visible Policing (VISPOL) members attended and were met by a mob of students who violently advanced to them while at the same time throwing stones at passing motorists.

"During the first encounter, police left the crime scene with the purpose of mobilising more members for backup," Tonjeni said.

"Police used rubber bullets to disperse the attacking crowd while backup was requested from Public Order Police. The members managed to diffuse the crowd and removed obstacles and stones blocking motorists".

He said students then moved back to the campus and there were no casualties reported. "The students began singing inside the campus and they did not stop throwing stones to the Police. No one was arrested during the protest".

Alice Cluster Commander, Brigadier Piet Wolfaard condemned the attacks and acts of violent violence from the students.

"Students are privileged with education and negotiation skills. It cannot be that whenever there are differences and demands that are not met, violence is the first option. Other amicable ways should be explored and exhausted. Whenever any protest turns violent, infringing other people's right, police will have no option but to enforce the rule of law, " Wolfaard said.

Motorists traveling from King William's Town to Alice or Bedford to Alice were warned to exercise caution and avoid using the R63 passing next to UFH.

"Motorists from King William' s Town are advised and encouraged to use a bypass indicating Hogsback that will continue until they reach Ntselamanzi to avoid injury and damage to property".

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Cape Argus