According to police, the incident took place at the University’s Steve Biko campus on Wednesday morning, as classes were set to resume after a three-day suspension of the academic programme.
SAPS provincial spokesperson Brig Jay Naicker said: “The students attacked a 27-year-old security guard who works at the tertiary institution. They assaulted him, poured petrol on him and attempted to set him alight. He was rescued by his colleagues who witnessed the attack. He sustained severe injuries and was conveyed to hospital for medical attention.”
Berea SAPS have confirmed the arrests and said the students, aged between 20 and 30 years, are being held at the police station. Two security control rooms were also torched by the students. The students are expected to appear in court soon.
The incident follows a week of student protests which flared up on the Steve Biko campus last week after the brutal attack on first-year student Sandile Ndlovu.
Ndlovu was attacked and stabbed in a lecture room and his cellphone and laptop stolen. He suffered severe head injuries and has been in hospital ICU since being admitted.
The attack, and the earlier fatal shooting of another student, Mlungisi Madonsela, earlier this year by campus security, sparked calls from students for stronger safety measures to be introduced on campus, and the dismissal of the current security provider.
Meetings between DUT management and student SRCs followed to reach agreement and it was decided that the academic programme would be suspended.
On Wednesday, lectures commenced, although an agreement had not yet been reached.
EFF student command secretary Sandiso Buthelezi said: “The SRC tabled its concerns about the safety of students on campus and in residences. It also demanded that the university remove Excellent Security, which is the contracted private security provider on campus.”
In response, DUT issued a press statement saying the institution had been through a very traumatic time in the last eight days, following the attack against Sandile Ndlovu and then, the death of another student in residence two days later in what is believed to be a suicide.
The cause of the alleged suicide is being investigated by SAPS.
“We have been engaging with the loved ones of both students and their families have kindly accepted our offers of assistance,” read the statement.
The university urged the SRC to give it time to complete a procurement process, which is already underway, for the appointment of new security services.
It also advised the SRC and the protesting students to act within the confines of the law and to respect the rights of students who wanted to study and to not intimidate staff, who wanted to teach and keep the campuses and residences operational.