CPUT re­jects stu­dents’ claims

Vi­o­lence not caused by ‘ex­ter­nal forces’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - YAZEED KAMALDIEN

CAPE Penin­sula Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (CPUT) stu­dents and the in­sti­tu­tion’s man­age­ment have a new dis­agree­ment – whether stu­dents or out­siders were the cause of vi­o­lence dur­ing re­cent protests.

Stu­dents still on cam­pus this week claimed out­siders in­cited the burn­ing and van­dal­is­ing of cam­pus build­ings.

But CPUT man­age­ment blamed stu­dents – 27 were ar­rested last Fri­day, hours af­ter the ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing’s en­trance torched and its large plate glass win­dows and doors smashed.

The cam­pus fi­nan­cial aid build­ing and a se­cu­rity of­fice were also set alight.

The stu­dents, charged with pub­lic vi­o­lence, have been re­leased and are due to ap­pear in court in Jan­uary.

On cam­pus this week stu­dents claimed they were not re­spon­si­ble for the vi­o­lence. Scared of be­ing named, they spoke anony­mously as they felt CPUT “man­age­ment are look­ing for stu­dents to ex­pel”.

A stu­dent from KwaZu­luNatal said their protest was to have “un­rea­son­able fees and our debts (to be) cleared”.

“We don’t want vi­o­lence. There are ex­ter­nal forces among stu­dents.”

Another stu­dent said: “There are ex­ter­nal forces who wanted to steal com­put­ers. We don’t know who’s who. We are run­ning from the po­lice.

“Stu­dents are not cov­er­ing their faces. There are peo­ple who found a loop­hole here and say they are stu­dents. They came with cov­ered faces.”

Among stu­dent pro­test­ers last Fri­day were some young men with masked faces. They said they wanted to pre­vent jour­nal­ists from tak­ing pho­tos and in­ter­view­ing stu­dents.

Another stu­dent blamed po­lice for the vi­o­lence.

“The only rea­son we be­came vi­o­lent is when po­lice be­came in­volved. They pro­voked us. How can you shoot me if I am not do­ing any­thing? They de­stroyed our res­i­dence,” said the stu­dent.

CPUT spokes­woman Lau­ren Kans­ley said stu­dents were re­spon­si­ble for the vi­o­lence that led to the in­sti­tu­tion’s brief clo­sure as staff felt threat­ened.

“While we can­not re­fute the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­ter­nal groups us­ing the protests as an op­por­tu­nity to com­mit crime, it is the view of CPUT man­age­ment that the ma­jor­ity of the vi­o­lence and the gross dam­age to prop­erty has been con­ducted by our own stu­dents,” said Kans­ley.

“Our own man­age­ment team and staff have in fact recog­nised many of the stu­dents at the fore­front of the ma­jor­ity of the dam­age. If there is fur­ther dam­age and de­struc­tion to prop­erty we can’t rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of more ar­rests.”

Grant Ab­bott, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Na­tional Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Union, said the union was un­con­vinced stu­dents were be­hind the vi­o­lence.

“We sus­pected some­thing. It seemed like it could have come from an ex­ter­nal third force try­ing to up­set things. It wasn’t sit­ting well with us the way it was turn­ing out. The ma­jor­ity wanted peace. We still sup­port any peace­ful demon­stra­tion”.

● CPUT first and sec­ond year stu­dents had to va­cate res­i­dences ear­lier this week. Their aca­demic year has come to an end. Only third-year and post- grad­u­ate stu­dents still writ­ing ex­ams are al­lowed to re­main on cam­pus res­i­dences.

Fi­nal-year and post-grad­u­ate stu­dents at the neigh­bour­ing Univer­sity of the Western Cape have been placed in al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion while res­i­dences have been va­cated. They are still writ­ing ex­ams.

The aca­demic year for first and sec­ond year stu­dents at UWC has come to and end. Stu­dents have been asked to va­cate res­i­dences.

PIC­TURE: YAZEED KAMALDIEN

CRI­SIS MAN­AGE­MENT: CPUT stu­dents have been or­dered to va­cate res­i­dences af­ter vi­o­lent protests.

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