By Bongiwe Dlamini | 2019-11-05
DAY two of the Southern Africa Nazarene University (SANU) class boycott ended on a sombre note as a female student landed in hospital while three males were arrested and the institution was closed indefinitely.
This happened yesterday at around lunchtime after the students clashed with the officers of the law when they blocked the road by placing logs and starting a fire on the public road.
The chaos started at around 8am as the fire that was started in the middle of the road near the Nazarene traffic lights prevented motorists from passing through.
The students from both the faculties of education and health were dancing and singing on the same road.
When the police attended to the scene, the students are said to have hurled stones at the officers of the law before bolting.
The situation seemed to normalise from there until around lunchtime when the students protested from the university’s premises and out to the road again.
Meanwhile, the senate, with which the student representative council (SRC) wanted an audience in order to discuss some issues affecting them as learners, were locked in a meeting.
While at the road near the Sharpe Memorial Church entrance at Nazarene, the students placed some logs and concrete blocks in the road, blocking traffic headed towards the Manzini city direction.
As a result of this disturbance, motorists from the Ngwane Park direction were forced to find alternative routes while those coming from the Manzini city side had their patience tested since they either waited or forced their way through the dancing and resistant group of scholars.
This is when the police fired some gunshots in a bid to disperse the students.
Subsequently, they ran helter-skelter in all directions. It was at this point that one faculty of health second year student Phephile Sifundza was shot in the side of her knee. She was rushed to the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital, where she was admitted.
When interviewed in her hospital bed, Phephile said she was not among the protesting students but was crossing the road at the traffic lights towards Manzini City. She said she was in the company of her friend when she heard gunshots.
“In a moment, I was on the ground and I realised that I was hurt. I tried to call out for help but everyone was running around,” the soft-spoken student said while wiping tears from her eyes.
Eventually, Phephile said after the gunshots ceased and the chaos had died down, she was assisted by some of her colleagues and she was taken to hospital.
When visited yesterday, the scholar, who was in the company of her relative at the emergency room said scan results showed that the rubber bullet was still lodged in her knee.
On another note, after the skirmish had died down, the police are said to have remained on the heels of some students and they managed to apprehend three males; two students and a sympathy protestor.
The three are said to have been arrested at kaKhoza, where they fled to after the police opened fire.
The two students are Sibusiso Nkwanyana and Menzi Gumedze from the faculties of health and education respectively.
SANU’s class boycott started on Friday over the delayed book, practical and monthly allowances. The students had vowed not to resume classes until government availed the monies due to them.
Amid all this chaos, the institution’s administration issued a memorandum notifying students of the indefinite closure of the university.
The memo stated that as a result of the continued violence and vandalism by students, the institution’s senate had since resolved to close the university with immediate effect.
Students were, therefore ordered to vacate the university’s premises by 11:30am yesterday.
In a memo by the SANU SRC, it was stated that senate’s move to close the university was not helping in dealing with the issues that the students raise each academic year.
Just last Thursday, William Pitcher College was also closed indefinitely after students staged peaceful protests over the same issue.
When sought for comment, the Chief Police Information Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati confirmed that a student was shot during the skirmish. However, she said this scholar was part of the chaotic group.
Vilakati said the student was shot at while the police were dispersing the rowdy students.
On another note, Vilakati said the students were offside for using violence and disturbing motorists and other road users.
Regarding the non-student who was arrested along the two male scholars, Vilakati said the man took advantage of the chaos and joined in, only to be arrested and found in the possession of matches suspected to have been used to start the fire.
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