Medical students protesting at Durban’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine attacked a Mercury photographer, striking him with placards and punching him as he tried to photograph the protest on Monday.
Students representative council (SRC) general secretary Thulisa Ndlela said the students were protesting because of a lack of communication between management and the student body.
The protesters demanded that Mercury photographer, Doctor Ngcobo, refrain from photographing them.
Ngcobo said the protesters wanted to damage his camera as he tried to protect it.
“As I took my camera out, they exited the gate to cross the road, but when they saw me taking photos, they suddenly came towards us. They were singing in ‘Zulu Kukhona abazoshawa! Mabashawe phela!’ (‘Somebody will be beaten up, let’s beat them now’).
“They starting hitting me with placards stuck on chipboard and in the midst of everything one student punched me. They threatened me, saying they would hit me if I continued to take photos.”
Ndlela said the SRC condemned violence against individuals or property.
“We would like to apologise to The Mercury and the photographer. We must not interfere when someone is trying to do their job,” he said.
The SRC would take steps to ensure that journalists were not attacked again.
SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) chairman Mondli Makhanya described the incident as “hooliganism”.
“It is very disappointing that students, who are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow, do not recognise the role of journalists. People do not realise that their voices are heard through the media.”
The incident followed violent protests over student funding at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus last week. Riot police fired rubber bullets at students and charged several of them with public violence.
Ndlela said Monday’s protest was about the university’s management making decisions without consulting students.
“The decisions range from small issues such as lecture times and exam timetables to bigger issues concerning fees.”
The protest would continue until the issue was resolved, Ndlela said.
Staff at UKZN’s Westville campus staged a protest on Monday to press their demand for a salary increase of 9 percent.
A university spokeswoman, Nomonde Mbadi, said some lectures were disrupted before the protesting staff moved into the administration building wielding sticks and banging on doors.
A staff union spokesman, Raymond Parkies, said the university’s offer of a 8.5 percent hike would not be accepted and staff would continue to strike. – The Mercury