Since the start of the Fees Must Fall protests in September, there have been a number of incidents of alleged police brutality at universities across the country. But at the University Currently Known as Rhodes (UCKAR) allegations, coupled with video evidence, of police indiscriminately using force against protesting students are particularly numerous.
To date, 32 students have been arrested at UCKAR for Fees Must Fall-related protests, says Basil Williams, a lawyer representing students involved in the protests.
He says that police have charged students with various counts of public violence, intimidation, malicious damage to property as well as contravening the Regulation of Gatherings Act.
Williams says the police have adopted a hardline approach against those who have been arrested and set high amounts of bail.
“We’re dealing with students fighting for free education and obviously do not have the funds. Police are setting high amounts of bail and should they not be paid, they oppose bail,” he says.
This week, there have been further reports that police had been shooting into and entering residences on campus.
— mamí (@chan3elle) October 24, 2016
“I’m sure you heard the report last week Monday, where police entered Jan Smuts residence and there was a stun grenade thrown inside and there were rubber bullets shot inside the residence. They are actually marked on the wall. And a student was arrested inside the residence,” Leila Kidson, a student at UCKAR, told the Daily Vox.
Williams refutes claims made by several students that police had received a court order allowing them to enter residences. He has however indicated that he has collected evidence to suggest that police had been inside student residences.
“Not only did they go inside but they shot inside as well. We have collected a [rubber bullet] shell and also a [stun] grenade that was left at the scene. There are also marks on the wall where students were shot at inside the residence,” he said.
— Oppidan Press (@oppidanpress) October 26, 2016
Williams says minors are among the victims of police brutality.
“A student was shot in the eye yesterday [Wednesday]. Another student was shot six times on Tuesday and even while he was falling, they continued shooting. There’s also a student who was a minor, he was kept at a police service for two nights and was sexually violated because they wanted to ascertain his sexuality. The minor was part of the last group of students that were arrested. That’s something that should never have happened,” he said.
— Oppidan Press (@oppidanpress) October 26, 2016
Williams is laying charges against the police with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).
“As per my instructions, I made contact with IPID. We are going to be giving them names of witnesses and they’re going to investigate. The process is already underway, it’s just a matter of them conducting all the interviews – we’ve collected the names of the victims. The evidence has been collected,” he says.
Another student alleged that police had fired into a residence.
“As I was making my way onto St Alfred, which is the main public road at the university, policemen started shooting and throwing stun grenades from the back. This forced us to start running towards Jan Smuts [men’s residence] and while we were inside Jan Smuts they started shooting at windows as well. That kept on going on for about four hours and students went out and came back in. There were some cases of students throwing rocks in retaliation,” he said
In another incident, police allegedly shot at a group of medics, unprovoked.
Zenande Landu was one of them.
“On Monday, we were on the veranda assisting people who had been injured. A warden joined us and she sat there with us in order to check to help us with first aid. So while we were sitting on the veranda, the cops decided to point their guns at us. The first time they shot, it flew and hit my friend on the thigh, it just grazed her and fell. So we ran inside. Then it became quiet. So we went back outside.
“One was wearing a navy Adidas pants, and a red T shirt. He told us we have five minutes to get back inside and then he started shooting. Within the five minutes that he had given us, he started shooting at us. Our warden that was sitting with us started screaming, ‘Please don’t shoot at us, I’m the warden’. They told her the same thing, get inside, while they shoot. I ran into the common room and started getting a panic attack,” said Landu.
— Nakita McFarlane (@NakitaMcFarlane) October 26, 2016
On Wednesday, the tennis clubhouse and a bridge in the botanical gardens near the university were both torched.
Two exam venues, the Alex Mullins Hall and a venue known as Hangar were also reportedly set alight but the damage was minimal as campus security managed to put the fires out quickly.
Following Wednesday’s fires, the university has bolstered security on campus.
The Daily Vox is still awaiting comment from the police and the university.