#FeesMustFall protests at the end of last year disrupted exams and students were ordered to vacate their residences. Picture: Yazeed Kamaldien
#FeesMustFall protests at the end of last year disrupted exams and students were ordered to vacate their residences. Picture: Yazeed Kamaldien

‘Outsiders behind’ violent protests

By Yazeed Kamaldien Time of article published Nov 21, 2015

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Cape Town - Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) students and the institution’s management have a new disagreement - whether students or outsiders were the cause of violence during recent protests.

Students still on campus this week claimed outsiders incited the burning and vandalising of campus buildings.

But CPUT management blamed students - 27 were arrested last Friday, hours after the administration building’s entrance torched and its large plate glass windows and doors smashed.

The campus financial aid building and a security office were also set alight.

The students, charged with public violence, have been released and are due to appear in court in January.

On campus this week students claimed they were not responsible for the violence. Scared of being named, they spoke anonymously as they felt CPUT “management are looking for students to expel”.

A student from KwaZulu-Natal said their protest was to have “unreasonable fees and our debts (to be) cleared”.

“We don’t want violence. There are external forces among students.”

Another student said: “There are external forces who wanted to steal computers. We don’t know who’s who. We are running from the police.

“Students are not covering their faces. There are people who found a loophole here and say they are students. They came with covered faces.”

Among student protesters last Friday were some young men with masked faces. They said they wanted to prevent journalists from taking photos and interviewing students.

Another student blamed police for the violence.

“The only reason we became violent is when police became involved. They provoked us. How can you shoot me if I am not doing anything? They destroyed our residence,” said the student.

CPUT spokeswoman Lauren Kansley said students were responsible for the violence that led to the institution’s brief closure as staff felt threatened.

“While we cannot refute the possibility of external groups using the protests as an opportunity to commit crime, it is the view of CPUT management that the majority of the violence and the gross damage to property has been conducted by our own students,” said Kansley.

“Our own management team and staff have in fact recognised many of the students at the forefront of the majority of the damage. If there is further damage and destruction to property we can’t rule out the possibility of more arrests.”

Grant Abbott, general secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union, said the union was unconvinced students were behind the violence.

“We suspected something. It seemed like it could have come from an external third force trying to upset things. It wasn’t sitting well with us the way it was turning out. The majority wanted peace. We still support any peaceful demonstration”.

CPUT first and second year students had to vacate residences earlier this week. Their academic year has come to an end. Only third-year and post-graduate students still writing exams are allowed to remain on campus residences.

Final-year and post-graduate students at the neighbouring University of the Western Cape have been placed in alternative accommodation while residences have been vacated. They are still writing exams.

The academic year for first and second year students at UWC has come to and end.

Students have been asked to vacate residences.

Saturday Argus

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