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Protest chaos at city varsity

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“The academic programme has now been suspended. The senior management team is working on an academic recovery plan for this semester and the academic calendar will have to be revised.”

PANDEMONIUM broke out at the Sol Plaatje University yesterday afternoon, where a stand-off ensued between students and police officers, amid a strong police presence.

Rows of riot police vehicles lined up at the main campus, where it is believed that a room in one of the guard houses was set alight.

Earlier in the day the university was granted an urgent interdict by the Northern Cape High Court to prevent students from acts of intimidation after protest action started at the institution at the beginning of the week.

Protesting students had marched, carrying tree branches and sticks, to the construction site at the New Park campus yesterday morning, while the SAPS Public Order Police monitored the situation.

While some students raised complaints regarding the non-payment of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursaries, overcrowded accommodation, the poor quality of the food and that washing machines at the hostel had to be shared among too many students, the media was chased away and instructed to delete any videos or footage of the march.

“I initially refused to delete the pictures, however, after being surrounded by an angry mob I took them off my phone,” said DFA photographer Danie van der Lith.

Spokesperson for the Office of the Vice-Chancellor at Sol Plaatje University, Kashini Maistry, said students began protesting on campus from Monday afternoon. “There were anecdotal reports of violence and intimidation, as well as destruction and vandalism of university property.”

She indicated that a list of complaints regarding operational matters, relating to residences, catering and facilities were forwarded to management. Maistry added that the university was closed yesterday due to the disruptions.

“The academic programme has now been suspended. The senior management team is working on an academic recovery plan for this semester and the academic calendar will have to be revised.”

She was not able to verify whether any students were threatened or intimidated. “The university deals with disruptions of students through internal processes.”

Maistry explained that finance staff were busy processing allowances from NSFAS for students who were already registered.

“There are a number of students who have applied for late admission at Sol Plaatje University as well as funding from NSFAS.”

She indicated that no students would be excluded or evicted while processes were still under way.

Police spokespoerson, Colonel Mohale Ramatseba, said about 200 students gathered outside the university premises yesterday afternoon, demanding to see the Vice-Chancellor.

“Public Order Police officers are on the scene to monitor the situation. No arrests have been made.”