Chaos in Cape Town CBD as fees protest spreads
CAPE TOWN — Fees Must Fall protests spread from Parliament to the streets of the Cape Town CBD yesterday after police and students clashed.
Violence was sparked just before 15:00 following a generally peaceful day when a mock Blade Nzimande “coffin” was set alight and thrown from the protesters’ side over the heads of police officers.
A police officer extinguished the “coffin”. Stun grenades were released in quick succession, and chaos ensued.
Protesters ran down Plein, Roeland, Barrack and Commercial streets, followed by police armed with stun grenades and rubber bullets.
Students retaliated by removing bricks from the Plein Street pavements, breaking them in half, and throwing them, along with stones from a nearby renovation.
A water cannon was used to prevent protesters running further down Plein Street, forcing them down a side street.
Flash points emerged at various points in the CBD, which included the intersections of Strand and Plein near Cape Town train station. Bins were overturned and set alight in Strand and Barrack streets.
In Plein Street, a police van window was shattered, a stationary civilian car was damaged, and the window of a KFC was also damaged. There were also altercations at Barrack Street and the corner of Plein and Roeland. Litter was strewn across many of the streets.
A person was also injured in Plein Street after an apparent altercation with another protester.
An eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said the man had been hit with a half a brick and fell straight to the ground.
The injured man was taken away in an ambulance, with a blood-soaked bandage around his head.
A man believed to be homeless was restrained by four police officers and bundled into a police van. The reasons for his arrest were not immediately clear.
Police were clearing litter and debris in Plein, Strand and Roeland streets as at 16:30.
Throughout the afternoon, the sound of stun grenades could be heard.
Earlier in the day, a few people were treated for heat exhaustion.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan made a surprise appearance before his 13:30 mid-term budget speech, much to the student’s surprise.
A News24 reporter asked him if he had any good news for students, and he answered, “a little bit”.
He signed the students memorandum, but then had to rush off for his 14:00 speech. A student leader with a portable loud speaker called him a “coward” as he left, and demanded that Nzimande meet them. The students demands included:
amnesty for arrested students, referred to as “political prisoners”; removal of police and private security from campuses; free, decolonised education immediately; They also observed a moment of silence for students from the 1976 Soweto protests.
“We are hit at by the youth of 1976 which is a disgrace. They want to kill us. They are trigger happy,” a student leader told the crowd. He said history was repeating itself.
The protesters were a mixture of CPUT, UCT and UWC students, as well as representatives from universities around the country. Parents were also present.
The protest was generally incident-free before 15:00. — Sapa