Police see red after Tuks protest
A group of black students from the University of Pretoria spent at least 17 hours in police cells on Friday after their protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction shut down the campuses.
Brooklyn police spokesperson Captain Tsekiso Mofokeng said the 27 students were released early yesterday. They paid R500 bail each and were instructed to appear in court tomorrow.
He said police were called when a protest against language policy at the university turned violent.
“Things went out of control. Students ... did not want the presence of the police, who were doing their job. Once it became violent and property was damaged, we then made arrests.”
On Thursday, a smaller police contingent assisted the university’s private security guards after a standoff on campus involving student members of AfriForum Youth and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Students’ Command.
University spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer said: “There was an altercation after a meeting that was supposed to happen regarding feedback on the language policy process. Then there were threats of disruption of academic activities and of violence. That led to the decision to close the two campuses.”
EFF leader Kabelo Mahlobogwane said his organisation and two others were at the venue following an invitation from management regarding feedback on the language policy discussions. He said the invite was just for them and AfriForum, and its supporters were not invited.
“But because AfriForum had been marching on campus, they decided they were going to attend the meeting and they occupied the venue. We tried to gain access and they attacked us. The management did not protect us,” Mahlobogwane said.
Police allegedly had a list of people to arrest, he said. “People were arrested while sitting down. If you [were wearing] anything red, you were arrested.”
He said he was warned by a policeman that he was on the list and he went into hiding in a safe house until the EFF lawyers arrived.
AfriForum Youth’s Morne Mostert denied that the Afrikaans students had attacked the EFF on campus. He said that on Thursday AfriForum was protesting and handing over a memorandum to management in another venue.
“We heard reports of the EFF going around and that individuals were being attacked, and that is why we went out to assist students,” he said.
Mostert said he was invited to the planned meeting on language policy. “The invitation was sent out, but there was no description on what precisely the meeting was going to be about. When I arrived, there were lots of Afrikaans-speaking individuals who wanted to have their say on the language policy.”
Mostert said the meeting did not take place because the venue was too small.