DURBAN – Police and protesting students were locked in running battles at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus on Thursday that saw at least one vehicle overturned and a blaze in one of the buildings started.
By midday the academic programme at the campus had been suspended.
A number of protesters were arrested and were sitting in the back of a police van, but it was not immediately known how many were arrested.
A few could be seen languishing in the back of a police van for most of the day. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray to disperse protesters.
Students shouted abuse at police and journalists from the residences as stones and bottles were thrown.
At one stage, a group of protesters were seen throwing stones at a group who were not protesting.
The campus was littered with debris that ranged from ironing boards to fire extinguishers, rocks and stones.
The morning started off with students being removed from lectures by the protesters before a car was overturned. The protesters broke up into little groups engaging Public Order Policing units and members of the eThekwini Metro Municipal police before disappearing, only to emerge elsewhere.
Many of those lobbing stones covered their faces with balaclavas, handkerchiefs and T-shirts.
Later in the day, members from the police’s National Intervention Unit arrived to start sweeping the residences.
One student could be seen crying outside the university’s Risk Management Services building. Her clothing was stained with blood and she had blood coming out of her ears.
She claimed she had been beaten up by members of the Mi7 (CORR), the private security firm deployed by the university.
Midway through the morning, the university’s vice chancellor Dr Albert van Jaarsveld could be seen leaving the campus as the university shut down its academic programme.
It was at this point that a bin and a table were set alight. Plumes of smoke could be seen, but police were able to extinguish the blaze before it got out of hand.
University spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said that academic activities had been suspended for the rest of the day at the Westville campus.
At the university’s other campuses the programme continues as normal. There were reports of small protests at the university’s Howard College Campus.
– African News Agency