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Fort Hare looters ‘reduced a legitimate protest into criminality’

27 October 2015 - 14:22 By Mamela Gowa

The #FeesMustFall student protest took an angry turn at the University of Fort Hare (UFH) when hundreds of students broke into a bookstore and looted study material worth thousands of rands at the Alice main campus on Monday. Scenes of vandalism and looting played out on the campus as students protested in the rain outside and inside the campus‚ and later stormed the locked Van Schaik bookstore and plundered the stationery.UFH vice-chancellor Dr Mvuyo Tom said he was deeply disappointed by the students’ actions‚ which had turned a legitimate student movement towards criminality.He described the lootings as “a disgrace to the university’s name”.“We are terribly disappointed. It is a disgrace for the university‚” Tom said.“These are people we thought would be able to keep the ethics of the university of good leadership but they have reduced a legitimate protest into criminality.”Tom was at the Alice police station by late on Monday to open a case against those breaching a court interdict handed down last week.He said the students had been trying since last week to break into the bookstore and on Monday morning they also looted a Coca-Cola truck driving on the main road.Even so‚ the looting caught MCC Security guards by surprise. It happened at around 1pm when thousands of students were turned away by police from their march to the university’s animal production research farm. No arrests were made.A large contingent of police officers from Queenstown‚ Alice and East London had been sent to the university.While more than 200 other students were transported to the provincial legislature to hand over a memorandum to Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle‚ the thousands left behind said they were frustrated by the non-availability of transport for them.Student representative council members were left behind at the main campus and the memorandum was not handed over to Masualle.After being turned away by police from near a farm owned by the university‚ scores of students ran onto the campus and threw bricks and stones into the bookstore.Security guards said they tried to stop the students but found bricks being thrown at them. One guard was hit in the face.When the Dispatch arrived at the scene‚ the sound of the glass doors breaking could be heard coming from the bookstore.Screams and applause were heard from students‚ and many emerged from the store carrying study materials‚ scientific calculators‚ textbooks‚ writing pads‚ books and backpacks.Backup security guards arrived later and dispersed the students by throwing stones and firing off rounds of live ammunition.Students Representative Council president Busisiwe Mashiqa said: “I have been saying that vandalising the university is not something that we promote.“The person who refused students transport to go to Bhisho is the person who caused all of this damage.“Because if we had received transport‚ we would have been in Bhisho and this would not have happened.”She claimed the university management had reneged on a promise to give them transport.On Monday ‚ students were told they would not be getting buses because the students’ demands had been addressed by President Jacob Zuma on Friday.However‚ UFH students said Zuma’s announcement of zero fee increases for 2016 did not change their demand for free education.“Our interpretation is that our fees will remain the same.“We have a different struggle in Alice because the 0% increment excluded our residence debt‚ which has gone up 100%.“In May‚ the Eastern Cape premier [Masualle] and deputy president of the country [Cyril Ramaposa] came to our campus and injected R5.2-million to cater for about 1200 students.“That money went towards their food. They said they would come back and inject more money which would assist the students to pay for their fees.“All we wanted to do today was to hand over a memorandum to the premier to remind him not to forget about their plight because we are worried that the year will end soon and students will not be able to register next year as the university has resolved that if we owe more than R5,000 we don’t register until we pay the debt off‚” Mashiqa said. Vowing not to go back to classes on Tuesday‚ the students said their next action would be determined from a meeting they would hold later yesterday.However‚ Tom said exams scheduled to begin next week would go ahead whether the students wanted to write or not.“The way they are carrying on is like people who don’t want to write exams this year.“We have extended the exam date as they requested and on November 2 the exams will commence.“We want to tell their parents that we have tried everything we could to accommodate the students‚ but we don’t understand what they want now‚” Tom said. - Daily Dispatch..

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