Weeks of rising tensions over transformation at Nelson Mandela University, especially around sport, boiled over into the violent confrontation witnessed on Monday night between students and security personnel.
This comes as three cases of assault were opened at the Humewood police station.
The chaos broke out shortly after the second half of a Varsity Cup match between Madibaz and Maties.
In what appeared to be an orchestrated plan, students rushed the stadium’s VIP section demanding an audience with university director of sport Yoliswa Lumka.
Yesterday, at a media conference, students aligned to the SA Students Congress (Sasco) denied responsibility, claiming they had for weeks been trying to meet with Lumka to discuss transformation issues and they had simply been brushed off.
They said it was only when they were attacked by security personnel outside the VIP booth where Lumka was watching the match that they had retaliated.
This was emphatically denied by a security guard, who said he had been set upon by about 12 people and was yesterday nursing a swollen lip and a bruise to the back of his head.
“I was protecting the VIP area and one of the [students] tried to force themselves into the VIP area,” he said.
Video footage of the incident showed several students swarming up the stairs to the VIP area as security guards tried to stop them.
This escalated into heated fist fights between the two parties.
The security guard said the students had then kicked open the door and forced their way in.
He said the students had said they should be able to access the food as they were paying to study.
He said his glasses had been knocked from his face and his jacket had been ripped.
“The students also hit another security guard with a brick on his head and then he was bleeding,” he said.
At the media conference Sasco regional chairman Bamanye Matiwane said the violence could have been avoided had Lumka agreed to meet with disgruntled students.
“It was not the first time [students] have made this demand [to meet with Lumka].
“In the previous game they made a similar demand, but unlike [Monday night] there were no bouncers. She did not come [out of the VIP area] to meet them.”
Matiwane said on Monday night Lumka had beefed up security and when students persisted with demands to meet the director, they had been assaulted by “bouncers”.
“What Sasco could not stomach was to watch students being attacked by bouncers, and when they tried to intervene, that’s when the fight escalated,” Matiwane said.
Police have arrived at NMU after chaos erupted at the match between Madibaz and Maties. According to reports from the scene, SASCO students are allegedly protesting against the lack of transformation in sports. The game has been cancelled.
Video: George Byron pic.twitter.com/E63Mwd8ZLT
— HeraldLIVE (@HeraldPE) March 12, 2018
However, in a February 26 Facebook post, Sasco threatened to “mobilise ourselves and collapse that VIP section”.
The post read: “All the money that is used for food and drinks will be referred to the SRC feeding scheme for poor students.”
Matiwane said transformation within the university was moving at a snail’s pace, with the Madibaz rugby team remaining untransformed.
However, asked what the demographics of the team were, Matiwane said the numbers were immaterial and that speaking about numbers simply diminished the issue.
Matiwane also said Sasco wanted to know why rugby at the university was allocated a larger budget than soccer.
Asked yesterday afternoon about team demographics and budgets for the two sporting codes, university spokeswoman Zandile Mbabela said she needed more time to answer those questions.
She said the university had a draft transformation plan that was currently undergoing a consultative process.
“So the issue of transformation in sports is something that is on the agenda,” she said.
“With regards to Monday night’s incident, the matter is under investigation by both SAPS and university protection services.
“All available evidence is being collated as part of the investigation process. Due process needs to unfold as we work to speedily conclude the matter.”
A 22-year-old student, who did not want to be named, said she had been attacked inside the VIP area.
She said she had seen the commotion unfolding but was unsure what was happening until students had burst into the room.
When she tried to leave the room a student had attacked her, saying she was enjoying the drinks and food while black players were being oppressed.
The student said she had seen another student being hit before someone came over to her and slapped her on the left side of the face.
“This had nothing to do with transformation,” she said.
She believed the students who had attacked her were jealous that she was sitting in the VIP area.
Neither Lumka nor Madibaz rugby club manager Theresa le Roux could be reached for comment yesterday.
Varsity Cup chief executive Duitser Bosman said Monday night’s incident would be discussed at the Varsity Cup board meeting in May.
“Our vision has always been to create a platform for SA’s young rugby talent and we will continue to work with participating universities to develop and grow rugby talent,” he said.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg confirmed three assault cases had been opened at the Humewood police station.
— Ms Buso (@Nazi_Buso) March 12, 2018