Johannesburg - What was meant to be a peaceful vigil outside the University of Johannesburg, which has been the site of sustained protests over the last fortnight, was marred by clashes with police late on Friday night.
Eight petrol bombs were also hurled at university property, but campus management said there was minimal damage.
Student leader Anele Madonsela said two Wits University students were arrested during altercations with the police.
Confirmation of the arrests and claims of rubber bullets being fired at students could not be obtained from the police at the time of publication.
Expelled Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and poet Ntsiki Mazwai addressed the students.
Vavi said UJ was under a “mini-state of emergency” with students banned from walking in groups of more than three, adding that there was a curfew on campus.
“We went as concerned citizens of the country… in solidarity with the legitimate struggle of the workers. There are aims to delegitimise the struggle of the students by UJ management,” he said on Saturday.
Earlier this week, a meeting of 200 concerned UJ parents was convened by Vavi and others, he added, which was held at the head offices of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA in Joburg.
“Students are being painted as barbaric, throwing petrol bombs – but there is a mini-state of emergency at that campus,” he said.
“If you are seen walking in groups of more than three, bouncers pounce. Students are sjambokked and beaten on campus randomly.”
Vavi’s message was that students should continue with the struggle for no fees, and be inspired by the constitution “that promises this generation of 1994 and beyond” the right to education. “This right cannot be linked to the capacity of parents to pay. The biggest struggle next year must be for no registration or fees if students are to access education,” he said.
“The government must provide, and this government has been exposed as clinging to austerity measures when Rome is falling.”
He called for an end to labour broking and outsourcing. “All workers must be employed on a permanent basis with full benefits. All workers must be part of the medical aid scheme. If there is a housing scheme, all workers on campus must have it.”
UJ deputy vice-chancellor Mpho Letlape said the chaos which ensued during the night vigil began at about10.30pm when people “tried to force their way on campus and had altercations with police”. This had happened off campus, she said.
“There were two petrol bombs thrown at one of the buildings, but no (serious) damage was done,” Letlape said.
Petrol bombs had also been placed in a campus car park next to a security office as well as a university-owned house for post-graduate students.
Exams went on on Saturday with no hiccups, she said.
“Exams started on November 6. About 16 000 students wrote exams in the first two days of exams last Friday and Saturday. And this week, on average, 10 000 students a day have written exams,” Letlape said.