Cape Town - A security guard was hospitalised and five students were arrested after clashes erupted at the University of the Western Cape on Wednesday.
This followed after protesting students tried to disrupt exams at the Bellville campus and were met by a heavy contingent of security guards.
Hiding behind black wheelie bins, some protesters approached the guards, who had begun firing rubber bullets at them.
One of the guards was beaten after protesters stripped him of his helmet and protective gear.
ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak said paramedics attended to four security officials who were injured during the clash.
“When paramedics arrived, they found four security officials with various injuries. Two of them were treated for bone fractures. The others were treated for pepper spray exposure, lacerations and a shoulder injury allegedly caused by a brick. The four officials were treated on scene and later transported by ER24 to various hospitals in the area.”
One guard remained in hospital.
The protesting students then broke windows in some of the campus buildings, setting up burning barricades on many of the campus roads.
The group returned to the main campus residence where some protesters raided the dining halls, distributing food among the crowd. When the Public Order Policing Unit arrived, a tense stand-off ensued before they traded volleys of rocks, stones, stun grenades, teargas canisters and rubber bullets.
One student picked up a teargas canister and threw it back at police, who had to take cover as they were not wearing masks.
The day’s chaos was sparked by an e-mail allegedly sent by the chairman of the university council, Mthunzi Mdwaba, stating that an interdict should be sought to stop the disruptions.
Student Palesa Mcopheka said they were angry because their concerns had not been addressed.
“We are acting like this because there was an e-mail sent by the council chair, which said our agreement was null and void. We have been trying to talk to management but they are not listening to us.”
Monde Nonabe agreed, claiming university management did not respect the students. “We want our voice to be heard, and if our demands are not met we’ll shut down the university.”
Another student, Lindokuhle Mandyoli, said they were unhappy with the response from vice-chancellor Tyrone Pretorius to their demands.
Police spokeswoman Constable Noloyiso Rwexana said five students were arrested. “The suspects are facing charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and are expected to appear at Bellville court once charged.”
UWC condemned the violence.
Communications manager Luthando Tyhalibongo said: “The University of the Western Cape condemns the unjustified violence, arson, intimidation of students and staff, vandalism of several buildings on campus, as well as the looting of tuck-shops and catering venues on campus today.
“We are horrified that students could act in this way, in the name of ‘fees must fall’.
“The university has given the FMF movement ample opportunity to have progressive engagement via the appropriate governance structures.
“Sadly, the UWC group of the FMF movement continues to undermine this movement by behaving in a violent manner, refusing to engage proactively, and having a total disregard for the rights of non-protesting students.”
The institution also apologised to students writing exams for the disruptions.
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