Battlefield UWC

12 November 2015 - 02:15 By Jerome Cornelius and Aarti J Narsee

The University of the Western Cape campus resembled a war zone yesterday. Police used a student as a human shield, riot gear and weapons were wrangled from officers, buildings were vandalised and property was burnt. About 150 protesters, some in balaclavas, arrived in the morning with bricks, knobkieries and sjamboks. They claimed the university management "intellectually undermined" them.Several fires were started around the campus despite a heavy contingent of police and private security officers. The university said the police were armed with stun grenades, teargas and rubber bullets, and that the officers were shot at with live ammunition.As evening fell more police were sent to the campus. "We are being shot at. No matter where we run to, we can't get away. Someone is shooting at us. Some students, who are not protesting, are locked in a room," said a student, who preferred to remain anonymous.Department of Higher Education and Training spokesman Khaye Nkwanya condemned the students' actions. They "were acting criminally by disrupting exams... We are calling for UWC management to take action against those responsible."Last week, vice-chancellor Tyrone Pretorius met the Student Representative Council and the UWC Fees WILL Fall movement to determine a way forward. The university said it was initially assumed an agreement had been reached.An e-mail from the university council to students sparked yesterday's protests.Sabelo Skenjana, from UWC Fees WILL Fall, said the council "delegitimised" their movement and its demands.UWC Fees WILL Fall members said it was seeking "transformation of higher education" and ultimately "free education and the ending of outsourcing".UWC spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said the group's demands were unclear . He said they had insisted on meeting the council chairman, but the university process did not allow for this.UWC Fees WILL Fall member Msingathi Kula was taken into custody during yesterday's unrest. Police handcuffed him and used him to advance towards the hostile crowd. Only when students objected to this did officers take him to a vehicle.According to UWC, students assaulted a female safety officer and threatened her at knifepoint.One student was bleeding from the head, while a fire and medical officer was taken to hospital.The police confirmed last night that five people aged between 19 and 25 were arrested yesterday morning for a ssault with intent to do grievous bodily harm . Later, 10 more students were arrested and face public violence charges.The 15 arrested are expected to appear in the Bellville Magistrate's Court once charged.Last night UWC said it was "horrified that students could act in this way, in the name of Fees Must Fall".The police said late last night they would continue to maintain a strong presence on campus to ensure stability and calm.Exams have been cancelled for the rest of the week.Violence escalated at UCT on Monday when a senate meeting was disrupted. Sociology professor Xolela Mangcu, who has supported protest action since the Rhodes Must Fall movement began, said: "There is no place for violence at the university "Additional reporting Farren Collins, Gabi Mbele and Tanya Farber..

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