Cops, students clash in Durban

Students, police and security personnel clashed in running battles on the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT) Steve Biko campus on Monday.

Bricks, bottles and stones were thrown by the students.

Journalists were chased from the administration block and Mercury photographer Terry Heywood was struck on the back by a student wielding a stick.

Trouble erupted on Monday morning when the DUT’s security personnel used pepper spray to disperse about 400 students after they attempted to force their way into the institution’s administration buildings.

Students then regrouped and gathered outside the canteen area of the Steve Biko campus. Police cordoned off surrounding roads and gave protesting students five minutes to leave the campus.

However, protesting students continued to sing and toyi-toyi outside the canteen area.

After the warning was issued over loud hailers in Zulu and English, police fired rubber bullets.

The crowd dispersed, fleeing the Steve Biko campus into neighbouring buildings and properties.

As police and journalists emerged from the campus, they were met with bricks, bottles and stones thrown from the buildings.

Police chased protesting students up and down the road and out of the neighbouring buildings.

University spokesperson Nomonde Mbadi said in a statement released earlier that the DUT had been shut down and that it would remain closed until Friday.

She said staff were expected to return to work on Wednesday and the institution would reopen fully next Monday.

Police spokesperson Inspector Michael Read said the university had been asked to close its doors as a safety precaution as striking students had become violent.

“The protesting students were disruptive and even damaged parts of the institution’s property ... and there were also reports that striking students were intimidating non-striking students,” he said.

A police officer had sustained a minor injury to his leg.

No students were arrested during the clashes, he said.

Mhlonishwa Mashinini, a student from Johannesburg who was hoping to start the first year of his national diploma in information technology, said he had been given 10 minutes by security personnel to leave his room.

“I guess I’ll go home and then come back next week,” he said as he sat on the pavement outside the campus.

The students were protesting over student debt, accommodation and campus security.

Student representative council (SRC) spokesperson Mtunzi Gumede said: “When we speak to the management, they should first go and see the state of the accommodation so they know what we are talking about.

“We want to engage the management. We are the elected SRC. We are not at war, but there are things that have to be conducive for the students,” he said.

The latest incident followed a week of protests organised by the DUT’s SRC.

On Friday more than 200 students staged protests at the institution’s Steve Biko campus.

Students, led by the SRC, are demanding that student debt be rolled over—especially for those receiving financial assistance.

The SRC is also demanding that the DUT does not increase accommodation fees.

However, according to the institution’s management, the SRC participated in the council meeting approving the increase in accommodation fees.

Last Wednesday evening, the institution’s management obtained an interdict against the SRC, ordering that SRC members would not organise protests on campus or disrupt registration at the institution.—Sapa

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