Rowdy and violent ANC youth attacked members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) at the Soshanguve campus of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) on Tuesday, marring a visit by President Jacob Zuma to the institution.
The ANC-aligned youth, wearing T-shirts of the mother party, the ANC Youth League, the South African Student Congress (Sasco) and the schools-based Congress of South African Students (Cosas), sought to block EFF members from gaining entrance to a campus hall in which Zuma delivered a speech.
Shouts of “We will kill you”, and “We don’t want EFF inside” were hurled when ANC youth chased down EFF members, who included students of TUT.
This Mail & Guardian journalist witnessed the ANC youth beating their opponents with sticks and stones, and kicking those who fell to the ground.
Some ANC youth also swore at and threatened this reporter for filming them with his cellphone. Another journalist said they had earlier forced him to delete footage he had taken.
Police had their hands full during the melee. They intervened and confiscated sticks and stones, achieving a semblance of peace on campus.
But it was not long before fighting broke out again, with ANC youth resuming the attacks and EFF members running amok.
With attackers hot on his heels, one student escaped by jumping into a stationary police car. Police escorted the student and another off the campus.
The EFF youth fought back each time they were attacked, but were outnumbered. Before the confrontation, the handful of EFF members had expressed themselves in songs critical of Zuma.
ANC youth also gathered to sing ahead of arrival of Zuma on campus.
MoAfrika Mabogwana, deputy chairperson of the EFF in Tshwane, told the M&G “we’re being attacked by ANC people who happen to be inferior, very scared of the presence of the EFF”.
“We’re very much surprised why we’re being attacked with sticks and metals [sic], all because they know they cannot handle [a] few EFF people.”
Some ANC youth told the M&G they wanted to block the EFF youth from gaining entrance to the hall because they were planning to disrupt Zuma’s address.
“They want to disrupt youth programmes in the country. They disrupt programmes just to claim hegemony over the ANC,” said a Sasco member who refused to reveal his name.
Bokamoso Segole, who identified himself as chairperson of Sasco and the ANCYL of TUT Soshanguve branches, told the M&G: “We’re here as comrades of the youth league and Sasco to defend the revolution. If these comrades of the EFF don’t want to listen, we’re going to moer [beat)] them physically.
“These comrades [of the EFF] want to turn this event the way Parliament is being run. Here we’re going to listen to the president.”
Segole said the “violence is not justified, but if they are violent themselves we’re going to retaliate”.
Put to him that it was youth from his camp seen chasing and attacking EFF youth, he said: “I personally saw them. [EFF members], they are violent.”
The EFF youth were eventually denied access into the hall by VIP security personnel who manned the entrance.
‘I’m a citizen’
Troy Mathebula, president of the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) EFF-led student representative council, said: “Just because of the EFF regalia I’m not allowed? I’m a citizen. I have a right to be here and hear what the president says concerning the students. So why are these VIP people denying us entrance in this hall? Since we entered this institution we’re being harassed,” he told journalists.
Mathebula said he had planned to ask Zuma about VUT students who had been excluded from the varsity earlier this year due to a shortage of funds.
“I came here on behalf of VUT students to ask the very crucial question: What is going to happen to the future of those students, about 4 000, who were excluded because of financial [reasons].
“We’re standing up to say these students are deserving [of government financial assistance] and they should be brought back to the university,” said Mathebula.
The visit by Zuma was part of his Siyahlola Presidential Monitoring Programme, which he undertakes to inspect service delivery to communities.
Zuma said the government had received some complaints from TUT students.
He said these included “dilapidated state of bathrooms in the female residences which did not provide dignity and privacy”, “some students had no accommodation and lived at a disused primary school, Thandulwazi”, “disturbances caused by three shebeens which operate at the entrance of the campus” and insufficient security “following the death of one student” last year.
“These issues have also been attended to. The bathrooms at the female residences have been refurbished. However, the condition in some of the male residences requires attention including the need to fix lifts,” said Zuma. “The critical shortage of accommodation is being addressed.”