The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus in Durban resembled a war zone yesterday when striking students turned on each other in lecture halls and fought with staff, police and security guards.
Tyres and rubbish bins were set alight, cars entering the campus were stoned and washing machines and other appliances were thrown from verandahs.
Students were also forced out of lecture rooms by a mob of protesters, who demanded they join the violent demonstration.
The protesters pelted police with stones and sprayed them with water when they arrived to quell the violence yesterday morning.
At least four people, including a fireman , were injured when they were struck with empty bottles and stones.
The university’s management has yet to receive a formal memorandum outlining the students’ demands.
They are, however, aware that the grievances are linked to insufficient financial aid for first year, second-year and post-graduate students and accommodation issues.
Management was forced to obtain a court interdict preventing protesters from vandalising property and assaulting and intimidating students when a crowd of about 1500 students refused to obey police instructions to leave the campus.
Instead, the mob – carrying knobkierries, sticks and batons – continued vandalising property and stoning officers.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokes-man Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mdunge said late yesterday afternoon that police could not leave the campus as the “situation is still tense”.
Four students were arrested in connection with public violence, Mdunge said.
Student Representative Council president Lucky Nkalanga did not want to accept the interdict. Instead he fled when the sheriff approached him.
Earlier, Nkalanga said students were protesting because they were fed up with trying to get management to listen to their concerns relating to insufficient financial aid and inadequate accommodation.
“We want to meet with the vice-chancellor to express our concerns. We don’t want to meet with his subordinates,” he said.
Nkalanga claimed that police had provoked protesters by using water cannons and pepper spray to disperse them.
“Some students were assaulted by police in the residence,” he alleged.