/ 5 March 2008

Rubber bullets fired at protesting students

Students, security personnel and police engaged in running battles at Durban’s Mangosuthu University of Technology on Wednesday.

Rubber bullets were used by university security personnel and the public-order policing unit to disperse about 500 protesting students at the Umlazi campus, south of Durban.

According to a South African Press Association reporter at the scene, one member of the campus’s security was seen firing a handgun in the air. Other security personnel were armed with sjamboks.

The students were reportedly angry at the suspension of a member of the student representative council (SRC), as well as an apparent shortage of lecturers at the institution.

SRC president Brian Masondo on Tuesday denied that the SRC member’s suspension was linked to ongoing student demonstrations.

During Wednesday morning’s protests, students claimed they saw a thief and chased him down the road.

However, when the thief apparently pulled out a shotgun, a group of about 300 students then fled towards Mangosuthu Highway.

There they found themselves face to face with police, who were attempting to clear the highway, which students had earlier blockaded.

Police have made continuous efforts to keep the highway opened to traffic.

Some protesters carried Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) banners and others were wearing Mangosuthu Buthelezi T-shirts while singing and chanting at the university’s gates.

Police spokesperson Captain Khephu Ndlovu said he was waiting for clarification on the handgun matter.

“But in any instance, no one except police can fire a handgun,” he said.

The university’s spokesperson, Zanele Zondi — who is also the senior director of the campus’s legal services — was unavailable for comment. — Sapa