We had to sleep on blankets that smelled like urine in police cells: UFS student
Police and the private security guards treated University of Free State students like criminals after forcing their way into a residence and arresting them, one of the arrested students said on Tuesday.
The students were arrested on Thursday after unrest broke out when the university told them that their demand – that Vice Chancellor Jonathan Jansen be removed from his post – would be referred to its management structures.
The students allegedly tried to vandalise the statue of former Orange Free State president Marthinus Theunis Steyn. Police fired rubber bullets and used stun grenades to disperse them.
"We were tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed and roughly handled by the police, like raw criminals," first year Bachelor of Agriculture student Philemon Dube said.
He said he and a friend were sitting in his room when police arrested them and threw them into a police van with other students.
They were first taken to the Parkweg police station, told it was full, and then taken to the Bainsvlei police station. Once there, police did not know what to charge them with.
"The jail cells at Bainsvlei were in a horrible condition and we had to sleep on blankets that smelled like urine," he said.
Police spokesperson Constable Peter Kareli said it was difficult to comment on the matter.
"In cases like this, we need to get the true merits of the case, thereafter we can investigate it," he said.
Twenty students appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on charges of malicious damage to property on Friday.
They were taken to court with their hands and feet in chains.
"I have never felt so degraded in my life before."
Dube said it had been a rough start at UFS for him. He had had financial difficulties since the beginning of the year.
"It is so hard to stay focused and try to study with the thought of going to jail for something you never did," he said.
Charges against 11 of the 20 were withdrawn at their court appearance.
The remaining nine students were released on warning and the case was postponed to March 31, Captain Chaka Marope said.