/ 10 October 2016

Running battles between Wits students and cops move to Braamfontein streets

A bus was set alight
A bus was set alight

There were running battles between students and police as protests moved through the streets of Braamfontein on Monday afternoon. Five protesters were arrested in the chaos and a bus was set alight, allegedly by Wits University protesters.

Flames leapt out of the windows of the bus and smoke was seen billowing through the streets. The blaze was eventually extinguished by emergency services. Smoking wreckage lay on the road near the bus. 

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said a pastor from the Holy Trinity Church was apparently hit by a rubber bullet in the chaos.

Police fired rubber bullets from a Nyala armoured vehicle as it drove past students who pelted it with rocks. The university said three people had been arrested in Braamfontein while two were arrested on campus earlier. 

Earlier, police fired stun grenades to disperse students who were pelting private security guards with rocks at the entrance of the Great Hall. 

The confrontation began after students tried to access the institution’s Solomon Mahlangu House and they were blocked by private security. 

Earlier, two students were arrested after the institution’s FNB computer lab was flooded.

“It is [being] seen as deliberate – to get people out of the labs. We are reviewing the video footage,” said Patel.

The university said in a statement at 1pm that students had thrown “sizeable rocks that could have maimed or killed people”.

“Two private security guards who threw rocks were immediately moved off campus. The police dispersed the crowd using stun grenades, teargas and water cannons. 

“Some of the crowd remain outside the Great Hall, while others … dispersed into Braamfontein. 

“The university said the dean of students had asked student leaders to put forward 20 representatives to engage with management. The students did not take up the offer.

“The university offered to hold an imbizo, a two-way engagement facilitated by a neutral facilitator, within a time frame. However, this cannot be brought about through threats. 

“We cannot allow students to violate the rules of the university and bring about an imbizo through threats. This is not democratic behaviour,” Wits University said. 

“Several of Wits’s classes on various campuses are continuing today, albeit with low numbers. Where heads of schools are comfortable for the academic programme to continue, classes should resume.” – News24