Walter Sisulu University (WSU) students this afternoon clashed with police as they embarked on an illegal protest in their bid to end a strike by their lecturers, which has cost them five weeks of learning.
The students’ confrontation with the police started when thousands marched from their residences in Southernwood to the Buffalo City College to disrupt classes.
Heavily armed police, who had been waiting for the students at the gates of the college, ordered them to leave.
Realising their way was blocked at the college, the crowd then used stones and branches from nearby trees to blockade East London’s main street, forcing motorists to take alternative routes during peak-hour traffic.
But police soon caught up with the students, who were chanting liberation slogans, and started firing rubber bullets to break them up.
They fled to their residences in the nearby Southernwood suburb where they tore up black refuse bags and littered a number of streets.
Police patrolled Southernwood to maintain order while students hauled insults at them from the windows of their residences.
Student Representative Council president Ngobe Lali said they were going to intensify their protest until they are taken seriously.
“We cannot sit and do nothing when our futures are being taken for granted. It is up to us to do something and now we are going to be heard. We are not afraid of anyone, even if they can send police to stop us we won’t be intimidated,” Lali said.
“If we were in Nkandla he would have been here. President Jacob Zuma personally went to University of Zululand and intervened there. Just recently he intervened in a water crisis at a university of privileged people [Rhodes], but has not given us the time of day because we are children of the poor,” said Lali to loud applaud from fellow students.
Lecturers and administration staff at the university are demanding an 8 to 10% salary increase while the university’s offer is 4.25%, resulting in a stalemate.
“Our qualifications will not be credible if things continue to go in this direction. No employer will want to touch you if you say you got your degree or diploma at WSU,” Lali said.
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