UCT protests continue

Students protesters on the march at UCT earlier this week.

The DA Student Organisation (DASO) UCT branch has noticed that a number of Fees Must Fall protesters not affiliated to the organisation are wearing Daso T-shirts, saying this is a blatant attempt to place the DA in a bad light.

Earlier this week, a group of protesters occupied various buildings in an attempt to disrupt classes and departments. The presence of the group of 150 protesters, some of whom could be seen wearing Daso T-shirts, triggered loud sirens to warn non-protesting students and UCT employees that disruption was imminent and police and private security personnel were about to move in.

Some of these students chanted, “Viva DA, Viva Helen Zille” as they marched through the corridors.

The Tatler approached the premier’s office, but her spokesperson, Michael Mpofu, said he couldn’t “stop anyone from saying her name” and directed the Tatler to DASO for comment.

“You need to determine who these people are, and speak directly to DASO,” he said.

However, DASO-UCT branch leader Jodechon Parsons was in no doubt as to why these students were chanting Ms Zille’s name and wearing DASO T-shirts.

“They are trying to put our party in a bad light. But we are not going back on our stance that education should be free for the poor but not free for everyone. We also do not support the reinstatement of those students who were expelled earlier this year, students who knowingly committed criminal acts,” he said.

“This attempt to derail our stance is uncalled for, and we demand that the videos protesters are posting showing non-affiliated DASO students in our T-shirts be retracted. They (protesters) think our stance is anti-black, but we are not. We are constitutionalists and we cannot support violations of the law and the constitution.”

Mr Parsons added that the organisation was encouraging students to attend classes in spite of the potential for disruption.

“We are also advocating that students file complaints with the university if their studies are disrupted.”

The protests on Tuesday October 18 initially began with little incident. While there was a strong public policing presence at Upper Campus, the protesters moved along in an orderly fashion, singing struggle songs and even the national anthem while congregated in the cafeteria.

Protest leaders implored the crowd to not engage police and to disperse and move off in smaller groups if they encountered a strong security presence.

However, after a short break in proceedings, they moved to the chemical engineering building where they marched through the corridors, demanding that employees vacate the building. Many banged on the glass-encased offices shouting, “We will shut you down.”

The Tatler witnessed one of the mob demanding to know why a non-protesting student was filming the scene with his camera. To prevent the situation from escalating, a fellow protester dragged the man away.

However, this man was later one of six protesters arrested by police after tensions boiled over.

In one instance, private security clashed with protesters and dragged one student by the hair before handing her over to the police.

Once staff had left the building, several police nyalas descended on the scene, but most of the protesters – barring a small group who danced and sang among the police vehicles outside – had already scattered.

The peace was short-lived, however. Soon afterwards protesters clashed with police, resulting in the arrest of the six people.

In his latest update, UCT vice-chancellor Dr Max Price said the university was committed to keeping the university open and completing the academic year.

“I would like to extend my gratitude and empathy to the staff and students who have experienced harassment or intimidation and have still worked tirelessly through this four-week period. Conditions have been very difficult for everyone,” he said.

“While we will engage the security that is needed to continue with the academic programme as planned, we believe that a sustainable solution will more likely be achieved if we can find agreement and compromise. In view of this, we remain open to engaging with the protesting students, who are largely represented by the group called the SRC Candidates.”