Cape Town - A breakaway group of protesting students and workers at the University of the Free State have vandalised one of the oldest male residences on the main campus in Bloemfontein - House Abraham Fischer.
They protesters also defaced the statue of former president CR Swart in front of the Faculty of Law on campus and spraypainted the faculty’s walls, before public order police intervened.
Students and workers are protesting against the outsourcing of security, gardening and cleaning services at the university. University authorities have closed the campus and suspended all administrative and academic activities for Tuesday and Wednesday, in the wake of similar protest actions on Monday.
It was but one of several protests at universities across the country.
Earlier, several hundred people, mainly staff, protested at the main entrance of UFS, while on Monday, about 30 people were arrested during the strike by outsourced workers supported by a number of students.
On Monday night, striking workers and students also disrupted a Varsity Cup rugby match between the Shimlas (UFS) and the Madibaz (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University). In the 17th minute of the match a group of protesters moved onto the field. The rugby players of both teams and match officials immediately cleared the field before the advancing protesters.
A few minutes later spectators ran onto the field and started attacking and chasing away the protesters.
A video posted online showed a confrontation between white and black students on the pitch. Some of the white students punched and kicked the pitch invaders during the confrontation.
University management has condemned the violence against protesters, saying that nobody had the right to take the law into their own hands.
“An urgent investigation is underway, using footage from the event, and no stone will be left unturned to identify those who acted violently, whether students or not,” read a statement on the official UFS Facebook page.
A senior member of the UFS SRC said the protesters had marched on to the pitch, stood in a circle and sang but then “white students and their parents” got up from the stands and assaulted the protesters. “Both men and women were attacked in the most cowardly and disgusting display of racism and privilege...”
A spokesperson for the General and Industrial Workers Union (GIWU), representing the striking workers, said on Monday that they appreciated the students’ support of their cause.
He warned, however, that “certain political elements” were misusing their protest action to advance their own agendas.
“We have seen people handing out ANC T-shirts and also some people in EFF colours joining our protest action. We are cautioning people not to abuse the plight of vulnerable workers in order to further party political agendas ahead of the local government elections,” said Clarence Debeila, union organiser of GIWU.
He said the striking workers would continue their protest actions until the university management responded to a memorandum submitted last year, in which they ask for an end to the outsourcing of supporting services, that cases against striking workers and students be withdrawn, and that Afrikaans as a medium of instruction be abolished at the UFS.
The Durban University of Technology (DUT) is set to suspend six students, including the institution’s student representative council president, over violence that erupted on its campuses.
DUT spokesman Alan Khan said that three of the students had been served with their notices of suspension, while university authorities were still looking for another three who would also be served with suspension notices, once found.
Khan said that of the six, four were from the Durban campuses while two were from the PIetermaritzburg campuses.
“Two of them are SRC members,” he said.
He confirmed that one of those facing suspension was Sphesihle Mthembu, the SRC president. He could not confirm whether in fact Mthembu had been served with his suspension notice.
Khan said that initial reports for Tuesday indicated that the campus was peaceful.
The suspensions follow the events of Monday when about 100 students rampaged through the Durban campuses throwing stones, setting off fire hydrants and extinguishers and intimidating other students.
The protests were linked to calls by students for the university to permanently employ outsourced workers who perform general duties on campus. Students were also angry at the lack of student accommodation and over issues of transformation.
Earlier, DUT SRC secretary general, Zama Mncube, said they would support the suspended students. “We have received no information from the university that they intend to suspend students, but if that is what they say, we will be responsible because we represent all students,” she said.
Mncube said they had tabled issues pertaining to outsourcing of workers and student accommodation since January 4 without success.
* On Monday, cleaning and gardening staff, accompanied by #FeesMustFall students, protested against outsourcing at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). At one stage they occupied administration offices and later emptied dustbins. The protesters demanded that management scrap outsourcing and introduce a minimum wage of R10 000.
And at the University of Pretoria, (UP), Afrikaans students formed a barricade against #AfrikaansMust Fall protesters on Monday, saying they would no longer put up with attacks on their language. But one of the protesters said they were fighting “an institutional policy and culture”, rather than an individual or certain group.
At the University of KwaZulu-Natal, protests took place on Monday and throughout last week. UKZN spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said students took part in violent and illegal protests at four of the universities main campuses. He said students were in contravention of a court order and four students were arrested yesterday.
“Some students sustained injuries in the fracas. One of the injured students has been identified as a suspect in the group responsible for the violent actions. A case of public violence was opened four students were arrested by SAPS,” said Seshoka. He said management had engaged outsourced workers, students and unions in the hope that they would resolve the impasse. Meanwhile, Right2Know in KwaZulu-Natal has made an “urgent appeal” for free legal assistance for UKZN students and workers who were arrested last Monday.
Cape Argus and ANA