UCT seeks court order against protesting students

The University of Cape Town is applying for an interdict to prevent violent protests after paintings and a bus were torched, and vice chancellor Max Price’s office was petrol bombed.

At a media briefing on Wednesday, Price said the university was not against protests, and acknowledged that students were often better informed about issues that needed attention.

“These issues are relevant. We don’t want to distract from the core issues,” said Price. But he added that violent protests would not be allowed.

“If you engage in this form of protest you would be in the violation of the court order,” he said.

The interdict would be against the individuals, and the students themselves would face a disciplinary inquiry. They would not be expelled immediately because of the inquiry’s processes.

Protests, arrests
Eight individuals were arrested, one of whom is not a student, after the busts of Jan Smuts and Maria Emmeline Barnard Fuller were spray painted red on Monday, and art removed from buildings and set alight. 

Masixole Mlandu, a leader of the  Rhodes Must Fall movement which orchestrated the removal of a statue of Cecil John Rhodes last year, said that seeing the symbols of white colonial repression were painful for black students. He said Smuts supported institutional segregation and was part of the genealogy of apartheid.

A bus and a bakkie were also torched, and Price’s office in the Bremner Building on middle campus was petrol bombed.

Price said he was not present at the time.

The students started their protest on Monday with the erection of a shack to highlight accommodation shortages.

Prices said the problem was that students applied to several universities to widen their chance of getting in, and this, he believed was the reason why accommodation at UCT was so scarce this year.

After the press conference, journalists were let out of a back door at the Bremmer Building to avoid protesters.

Wits on high alert
In the light of the protests at UCT, the University of Witwatersrand increased security on Wednesday, Wits vice chancellor Adam Habib said.

Slamming the burning of art, a bus and a bakkie, Habib said there could never be an excuse for such actions, irrespective of the complaint about symbols of white history and the pain they caused.

Speaking on the sidelines of Parliament’s open hearings on the Higher Education Amendment Bill, Habib implored students to not take this path, and rather talk about their issues.

“What is achieved by burning a bus or art? How do you advance transformation?” If students had problems with the symbols, saying there were too many pictures and busts of white people, they should debate it, he said.  

“Tomorrow, are we going to burn Marx’s books because he was white and Jewish?” Habib asked. 

He said Wits had already prepared a document on urgent transformation issues. — News24

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Jenni Evans
Jenni Evans
Journalist at News24. Love reading, sunshine.
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