/ 9 October 2007

Arrests, injuries in university protests

Four people were injured and 38 students arrested during protests by University of Johannesburg students on Tuesday.

The students were protesting against a 14% fee hike proposed by the institution as a means of harmonising staff and academic salaries.

Police spokesperson Constable Sefako Xaba said police were guarding the institution because the management had an interim interdict to prevent the disruption of academic activities, damage to the university and the intimidation of students and staff during the protest.

”We arrived at the institution’s premises at 6am on Tuesday. Students came and blocked all the entrances. Rubber bullets were fired at them after they became violent and pelted police and motorists with stones,” he said.

”We arrested 38 students and they are charged with public violence. No injuries were reported as a result of the shooting.”

Students outside the Doornfontein campus demanded that police leave the premises because three students had been injured during the shooting.

The university’s house committee chairperson, Tebogo Motlana, said police attacked them inside their rooms in their residences.

”Three students were taken to hospital in critical condition after they were shot for no apparent reason. We became violent after they just opened fire on us,” Motlana said.

Margaret Pitse (31) was shot by police outside the Robin Crest residence in Saratoga Avenue during the student protest, bringing the number of injured people to four. Pitse was with her sisters walking to their home in Bertrams.

Although Pitse and one of the injured students were transported by an ambulance from the scene to the nearest hospital, Xaba said he had not received a formal report about the injured people and therefore could not confirm this.

Castro Ngobese, national spokesperson of the Young Communist League (YCL), said the organisation condemned the arrest of the students.

”As the YCL we strongly believe that students have every right to defend access to education and that this should be protected,” he said.

Ngobese said they were against a fee increment because most of the institution’s students were from poor families who could not afford to pay high and unreasonable fees.

Police said the arrested students were expected to appear in the Jeppe Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

The university’s Doornfontein and Auckland Park Bunting Road campuses were closed following the student protest action, and were expected to remain shut on Wednesday, the university said.

On Tuesday afternoon, students were chanting songs and protesting inside the Doornfontein campus under heavy police guard and no violent attacks were reported. — Sapa