Stun grenades‚ smoke canisters and teargas were used to drive back students as they renewed protests after an address by Economic Freedom Fighters chairperson Dali Mpofu at the University of the Witwatersrand on Tuesday morning.
Students were seen throwing stones and other projectiles at police officers in running battles.
There had been a brief lull during which Mpofu told students: “If the police want to shoot our children‚ then they must shoot us first.”
The students had earlier been dispersed by police‚ but regrouped and marched through the campus disrupting classes. They invaded lecture rooms‚ chanting as police watched from the distance‚ before gathering for Mpofu’s address.
“It is not for us to judge you‚” Mpofu told them. “We are here to make sure that black lives are not lost unnecessarily.
“We are gathering a forum of lawyers that are going to intervene not just here but nationwide.”
He also called on former student leaders to come and join the protests taking place at the campus.
“Instead of relying on the media. People must come here and hear from you what the issues are and we must see for ourselves. This is your struggle. None of us must be allowed to take it over. It is your struggle and you will conduct it in a manner that you see fit.
“All of us who claim to support the call for free education must find a space to support your struggle without directing that you must go left or right.”
Earlier‚ stun grenades were used earlier to disperse students‚ two of whom – a male and a female — were arrested.
Police spokesman Kay Makhubela said the university had obtained a court order preventing more than 15 people gathering at one point. He said the two arrested students would face a charge of contravening the court order.
One of arrested was #FeesMustFall leader Busisiwe Seabe.
“Essentially‚ while students were protesting‚ the police started throwing stun grenades at students…I was busy with an interview with eNCA‚ and then when I enquired about an arrested student I got arrested for asking too many questions‚” Seabe said of being taken into custody.
She was also seen in eNCA footage shouting‚ as the police van she was put in drove away‚ that: “We won’t not be deterred‚ we will continue to fight for free education whether we are arrested or not.”
A student‚ who only identified herself as Nomazwe‚ accused police of using excessive force.
“They attack us‚ at the slightest move we make. They must leave our campus. We cannot find solutions with police still here at the campus. We have a right to gather‚” she said.
Wits vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib had warned on Monday night that “security and police services” would be “deployed on all campuses and in all buildings” and that “no mass meetings will be allowed in Solomon Mahlangu House” .
That seemed to have been ignored‚ with the All Residence Council tweeting a video clip from that building showing students dancing during an early morning vigil on Tuesday.
Habib had noted concerns “about learning in a ‘securitised’ environment with police guarding lecture halls”‚ and said “we scaled down our security for today (Monday) and requested the police to move to the campus perimeter”.
“However‚ given the harassment of some staff today‚ I am left with no choice but to open tomorrow with a full security contingent throughout our campuses‚” he added.
– TMG Digital