Johannesburg – Police fired rubber bullets at protesting students who disrupted exams and barricaded the entrance of the Lowveld College of Agriculture in Mbombela on Wednesday.
“Students barricaded the entrance of the college with stones and burning paper. Nobody could enter the college. Police were forced to fire rubber bullets to disperse the crowd,” said Captain Klaas Maloka.
The rampage started on Wednesday morning when about 100 students refused to go to class and started protesting outside the gates of the college.
Maloka said no arrests were made and police did not receive any reports of students injured during the shooting.
“The situations has gone back to normal and the gates have been opened,” said Maloka.
Dumisani Mhlanga, president of the student representative council (SRC), said students were supposed to begin writing their exams on Wednesday but decided to protest because they were unhappy with management.
“We are unhappy with the outdated curriculum. In March this year only nine students out of 50 got their diploma,” said Mhlanga.
He said the third year programme was ineffective and the books in the library were outdated.
“Accommodation and meals at the College are very expensive and it left much to be desired,” said Mhlanga.
Students would continue to protest until Mpumalanga MEC of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration Meshack Malinga intervened.
“The management takes a long time to respond to our problems. We will not go back to class until our demands are meet and the MEC intervenes.”
Mhlanga alleged that two students were injured during the shooting.
Acting spokesperson for the Mpumalanga department of agriculture, rural development and land administration, Zanele Shabangu, said the college management and the SRC were scheduled to meet on Thursday.
“The SRC handed in a memorandum of their grievances two days a go and wanted management to respond today (Wednesday) at 10:00.”
Shabangu said college management felt the notice was too short and there were issues they did not understand in the memorandum.
“We invited the SRC to be part of a meeting today (Wednesday), but they did not attend.”
A way forward for the college and for exams that began on Wednesday would be discussed on Thursday during the meeting.