UCT mops up after protest vandalism

18 February 2016 - 02:40 By Jerome Cornelius

"People will remember you for what you build, not what you destroy." These are the words of Harriet Knight, whose painting was one of the artworks burnt by protesting students at the University of Cape Town on Tuesday night."When I heard they were burnt, I thought: 'Could they not have auctioned them?'"I was crying quite a bit," Knight said. "There was a lot of anger, but not just for the loss of my work. There was work by other people, like apartheid activists," she said.Knight, a former Rhodes University student who is now a teacher in the UK, was commissioned to paint the portrait of Rosemary Exner, a former warder at Fuller Hall student residence, when Knight was 19.Knight said burning the work could derail the students' cause."Had it been something that could forward this movement, I'd understand," she said."People will remember you for what you build, not what you destroy."Yesterday eight protesters were granted bail in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court. They are charged with malicious damage to property.A Jammie shuttle bus was torched and vice-chancellor Max Price's office was petrol-bombed.The students are protesting against the shortage of student accommodation at UCT.Among those arrested was the son of Eskom CEO Brian Molefe, Tumi, and #RhodesMustFall's Chumani Maxwele.Molefe snr was in court and paid bail for his son and several other students."I am here as a parent to support my son. I have no opinion on the protests. I was a student activist too," Molefe said outside court.He said his son's arrest "builds character" and would "spark intellectual debate".Money was made available from a #RhodesMustFall crowd-funding campaign, following appeals on social media last night.The matter was postponed to March 30.No violence was reported yesterday but the road that runs through the campus - on which a symbolic shack had been erected, which was torn down by the authorities earlier in the week - was closed.Students looked on as workers removed graffiti on a war memorial that read "f**k black exclusion" and "f**k white people".Russell Ally, executive director of the department of alumni and development at UCT, said: "What happened here last night is tragic. The problems and issues students have identified are important ones, but leadership is lacking and the methods used by students are not sound."A student, who did not want to be named, said: "People cry over a burning bus but not an education that will eradicate a family's poverty. That spells privilege."Vice-chancellor Price said yesterday that more than 75% of students living in residences were black."The #RhodesMustFall lobby claims this issue is about student housing and, in particular, about black students not being given housing in residences, and white students being given preference. That is completely wrong."The university is asking the high court to interdict 15 protesters from engaging in violence as it tries to bring stability to the campus.The application is for an order preventing protesters from entering, or remaining on, any of UCT's premises until 2pm on Friday next week.UCT also wants the court to ban:Actions that obstruct university services or decision-making;The erection of unauthorised structures;Destruction or defacing of university property; andParticipating in, or inciting others to participate in, violent protest.Additional reporting by Tanya Farber and TMG Digital

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