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University students left ‘traumatised’ after week of violent protests

Calm has now returned to NWU, but the campus has been evacuated & remains closed indefinitely.

The science centre and the administration block at the North West University have been destroyed by a fire during a violent demonstration at the institution on Wednesday night. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN
student protests,North West University,University of the Free State
Local

MAFIKENG - Students at North West University’s Mafikeng Campus have described feeling “traumatised” after a week of violent protests which have seen the burning down of several buildings including a science centre.

Calm has now returned to the university but the campus has been evacuated and remains closed indefinitely.

While management says those who started the protest on Wednesday were demonstrating against a new SRC, student leaders say their issues are far deeper and include concerns over language policies and registration fees.

The campus has now been evacuated and is completely calm but a first-year student has described this week’s protests as traumatic.

“What happened yesterday was so traumatising and the students were furious. They started throwing stones at the police and the police fired back.”

Yesterday the university’s management held meetings at the institution’s Potchefstroom campus to set out a plan of action after closing the Mafikeng premises to thousands of students.

There are now fewer private security officials manning the campus gates allowing the few students who are still on campus to exit and make their way home.

A government delegation is expected to visit the campus today.

WATCH: NW University closed indefinitely after burning of Science Centre

EMOTIONS RUN HIGH

Emotions ran high yesterday when police went door-to-door, looking for the instigators, breaking doors and using force to arrest those they believed were part of this week’s protests.

Student leaders at the Mafikeng campus say despite the indefinite closure of the institution due to violent protests, they will be back to resume their cause. 

Members of the dissolved SRC, who have largely been blamed for the violent protests, say they are the only leadership structure that can properly defend students.

Ousted SRC President Benz Mabengwane says the university knows that problems at the institution are far greater than the inauguration of a new SRC.

“It is very deep and the university knows. They even ran away from engagements, this SRC was debating them every day, wherever they went they were facing debate and they couldn’t stomach it.”

But the institution insists those who started the protests were just upset about the appointment of new leaders. 

The torching of a building as well as acts of vandalism at other institutions have drawn widespread condemnation, with President Jacob Zuma calling on students not to destroy property while they protest.

UNIVERSITY OF THE FREE STATE

Students at the University of the Free State (UFS) claim police have arrested the wrong people for yesterday’s violence and say some were targeted because of the colour of their skin.

Tensions ran high yesterday when students rejected management’s response to their demand that vice chancellor Jonathan Jansen resign. 

Tshepang Mahlatsi, head of the Tswelopele Male Residence, was emotional when police went door-to-door arresting students who they believed were instigating violence.

“I called one of the top management and they told me police have the right to break this house. What am I going to tell their parents now? Because we are black, I’m not a criminal and I paid to be at this institution.”

The latest flare up of racial tensions was sparked by a fight at a disrupted rugby game on Monday night.

Calm has now been restored at the campus but students have vowed to make the university ungovernable until Jansen steps down.

WATCH: UFS shutdown: Statues, tensions & prayers

‘SRC PRESIDENT MUST BE REMOVED’

UFS management have confirmed the existence of a petition circulating among students asking for the SRC President Lindokuhle Ntuli, who has been leading a protest on campus, to be removed.

The petition, signed by students who are not taking part in the protest on campus is calling for Ntuli to be removed, saying he is not representing the best interest of all students. 

Management says although students have vowed to keep the campus shut until Jansen resigns, classes will resume on Monday. 

More than 20 students were arrested yesterday after students rejected management's response to their demand regarding Jansen. 

“We have not been responded to at all… With black violence we see a lot of police brutalising our people… We do not negotiate that, Jansen must resign.”

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

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