ESTÉ CLAASSEN AND MADRÉ ROOTHMAN
On Tuesday, September 8, members of the Pan African Student Movement of Azania (PASMA) staged a protest on campus. They were lobbying for a change in the SRC structure and also voiced their objections to the hikes in study fees and the current racial quotas in place in residences and on campus.
The Student Assembly Elections were scheduled to take place on this day.
According to Monica van Tonder, a current member of the SRC, the protesters had started gathering early morning, threatening to take over Tukkiewerf and other main buildings. The protesters had planned to march through campus when their number reached 100.
A large group assembled in the Piazza, where security and university staff were intimidated. The group then marched to the entrance of the Human Sciences Building. Here PASMA members attempted to steal the voting ballots, and were met with resistance from campus security.
The protesters turned violent, pushing and hitting campus security and hurled a table towards the members of the electoral commission overseeing the voting. At this time, the police were called in to assist campus security with crowd control.
Perdeby spoke to Superintendent J. Jonson, who said that they had received a call at about 11:00 and responded with a force of about 20 police officers. On the scene, Johnson said: “We will only use tear gas and rubber bullets as a last resort and our main objective here today is crowd control.”
According to SRC Vice-Chairperson, Charl Oberholzer, the SRC was trying to negotiate common ground. Oberholzer feels that the protesters were out of line in trying to steal the ballots, as this undermined the rights of students who had already voted.
Van Tonder disapproved of the violent behaviour of the protesters, saying that she hopes the student who attacked campus security will be expelled.
Daniel Legoabe, of PASMA, said: “The SRC are using students who may be popular on campus, but one person cannot be [representative] of the people [students]. Management is sending their mandate to the students, but the students’ voices aren’t being heard.”
Around 12:45, an agreement was reached to halt voting until alternative arrangements could be made. Voting has provisionally been postponed to Friday, September 11.