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Wed Jul 27 05:45:38 SAST 2016

‘War declared at UFS’

TMG Digital | 23 February, 2016 09:31
An injured man, believed to be a protester, is carried off the field after demonstrators disrupted a Varsity Cup rugby match between the home team, the Shimlas, and the Madibaz, at the University of the Free State campus yesterday. Infuriated spectators rushed onto the field and attacked the protesters. UFS vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen said the spectators were both white and black and did not believe the attack was racially motivated. He said the university would go through video footage and would 'take very strong action'. The campus is closed for two days.
Image by: CONRAD BORNMAN/ VOLKSBLAD

Security was tight at the University of the Free State (UFS) as it entered the first of a two-day shutdown after violence gripped the campus.

Workers were reported to be protesting outside the gates of the main campus on Tuesday hours after UFS announced via SMS that "UFS Bfn Campus closed 23-24 Feb 2016 due to strike and protest. Safety of staff and students our priority."

Violence erupted on Monday when a group of protesters invaded the field where a Varsity Cup match between FNB Shimlas and FNB NMMU Madibaz was in progress.

“Members of the UFS Protection Services gathered around the protesters but were outnumbered‚” a university statement said‚ and “after a few minutes‚ spectators ran onto the field”.

“The protesters were chased off the field and beaten by the spectators.”



UFS senior leadership condemned “in the strongest terms possible the violence against the protesters”.

Fears of racial violence dominated social media‚ with some saying Monday’s actions were a declaration of “war”.

saasa ‏@SpicesGp simply tweeted: “War declared #university of free state”‚ but Kgagamatso ‏@Nator_Da felt that point had long been passed: “What's happening at the University of Free State is past civil war ... Its ‘ a part of hate’ you know ‘apartheid’ ”

A dispirited Curiousity Locksmith ‏@CuriousityLocks posted: “As for University of Free state‚ a civil war is looming. Those grounds are no longer safe for anyone‚ sad reality”.

Escobar Senior ‏@IAm_Yise expressed his fear of reprisals: “I'm Afraid of How Black People Are Going To Stage a Retaliation In Their Numbers @ University Of Free State #UFS”.

UFS’s statement on Monday warned that “nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands”‚ and an “urgent investigation is underway‚ using footage from the event”.

“No stone will be left unturned to identify those who acted violently‚ whether students or not‚” it added.

It also pointed to outside influences‚ claiming: “It is clear at this time that both the protesting group and the spectators included non-students in their number.”

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