Thousands of Walter Sisulu University (WSU) students in Mthatha and Butterworth residences have been evicted after the institution obtained a court order against them.
WSU approached the Mthatha High Court after violent student protests in Mthatha and Butterworth forced the university to instruct students to vacate residences.
This after students had damaged university property during protests over National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) food allowances.
Students claimed armed police and private security guards kicked and broke doors at the Nelson Mandela Drive and Zamukulungisa campuses on Thursday night, ordering students to leave the premises.
Some students also claimed that police used teargas and rubber bullets in a bid to evict them.
“I was watching from the window of my room as police assaulted students,” said a student who remained anonymous.
SRC publicity officer Mxolisi Zoko said they managed to convince university management not to evict students during the night.
“The vice-chancellor [Professor Rob Midgley] then agreed but said we should vacate the premises first thing [Friday].
“The situation is very chaotic at the moment. Students are moving out because they are scared of police and security guards’ brutality,” he said.
Zoko said it was disappointing that university management would send armed police and security guards to evict students as if they were dealing with hard-core criminals.
“The manner is which they are dealing with the issue is unacceptable. Belongings of the students are at risk of being stolen as they could not take everything with them,” he said.
He said they did not know where students who were not able to return home, would be accommodated
“We encourage those who can manage to go home to go so in the meantime, we will see how we will help those who are unable to go home,” he said.
Butterworth campus president Zubenathi Sopazi said students vacated the campus immediately after they heard about the eviction order.
“I believe students are still traumatised with the way the police dealt with them on the day of the protest. “So they feared for their lives and left,” he said.
Sopazi said those students who were unable to go home were now accommodated at community halls.
“Some students do not have money and some are from far away, it is not that easy [to go home].”
WSU spokeswoman Yonela Tukwayo said on Thursday the university was not planning to evict students because only a few were protesting. Yesterday she said the decision to evict the students came after widespread damage to university property.
She dismissed claims that the damage had been caused by police and security guards.
“This is damage caused by students during their [protest]. The [protesting] students broke doors to get other students out to join the [protest],” she said.
But eyewitnesses were adamant police and security guards damaged the doors with overzealous tactics.
“I know of at least two doors that were damaged by police and we do not know if they do not take belongings of students if there is no one inside,” a student said.
Tukwayo said it was still not clear when the students would return to classes. “The campus management committee are meeting with students as we speak. We want to save this academic year.
It’s in our interest to resume normal operations,” she said. — firstname.lastname@example.org