Universities say some of the violent protests recently experienced on campuses across the country, resulting in damage to property, may have been caused by individuals who were not students or staff members.
The senior executive team at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) found that none of the 150 individuals who disrupted lectures and started a fire at the Braamfontein campus yesterday were Wits staff or students. Based on this finding, the university said it instructed police to arrest the individuals for their criminal behaviour.
“These are criminal acts. The university will deal with this matter decisively using all means at its disposal,” said Wits. “Suspension orders have been issued to members of the group who are Wits staff members or students, and barring orders have been put in place for all non-Wits members.”
Earlier this year, when University of Cape Town’s vice-chancellor Max Price’s office was burned down, it was also found that some of the perpetrators were not university students. When The Citizen visited North West University in Mahikeng, security officials were fighting off individuals who did not have students’ cards, but were insisting on entering the premises.
Wits communication manager Kemantha Govender said the university had strengthened security at lecture venues, entrances and exit points. “We believe today’s protest is a politically orchestrated campaign with larger national objectives,” said Govender.
“The individuals who addressed the student groups today were from Wits, other universities in Gauteng, the Western and Eastern Cape and some political parties.” Students were now calling for free education, but Wits confirmed its student representative council was not involved in the protest.
Govender said the university had also established systems to ensure that no student was deregistered for not paying fees, provided they had entered into a payment plan with the university.