Asked last night about the fate of the 141 arrested students
and workers, deputy vice-chancellor: strategic services, Mpho Letlape, of the University of Johannesburg (UJ),
said: “I believe they have been released with a warning and will return to court
on Monday [tomorrow].”
Supporters of the
students and workers, who were arrested for protesting outside UJ on Friday, held a night vigil on the
same day while awaiting news of those arrested.
When asked why such heavy-handed tactics were
used during this week’s protests, Letlape said: “We have 42 000 undergraduate
students and 3 500 honours students whose parents and guardians have entrusted
into our care.
There were arson attempts from Wednesday onwards that began to
threaten the safety and security of those students.
“We needed to do all we could to safeguard
their safety, including that of our staff and students, hence the need to physically remove the
protesters who were no longer protesting peacefully.”
It had been a week of escalated tensions for the workers and students who took on UJ’s management in protests that turned violent and led to
beatings and arrests. The protests, calling for an end to
the outsourcing of services and leniency for poor
students, turned violent when students and workers were beaten by security staff
with batons on Thursday.
On Wednesday, workers and students slept at the university as part of their Occupy UJ strategy, which had started on Monday. On Thursday, they
walked to the main entrance where their colleagues had
been locked out after the university obtained an
interdict against protesting students and workers.
All hell broke loose when students and workers clashed with campus
and private security guards.
“On Monday, the head of security on campus
told private security to ‘kill those dogs’,” a student told City Press.
Shortly before clashing with security, the
group on campus decided to fetch their “comrades” from outside the campus, but were followed by security guards.
The situation quickly turned chaotic after a minor altercation
with the guards escalated into open violence. A student
was hit over the head with a baton and started to bleed.
A female worker, seeing that he was about to fall over, lurched forward to grab
Campus security grabbed her so forcefully,
the buttons of her blouse came flying off and she was
dragged off in a chokehold, her bra exposed.
guards chased down others in the group, beating them with
their fists, batons and other objects.
A woman pleaded with the men, but they
ignored her and started pepper-spraying protesters. A student within close range
of one pepper spray can was badly burnt by the spray, he
tripped and pleaded for help.
Later that afternoon, vice-chancellor Ihron Rensburg said he was
not willing to meet the group, which he said had caused
significant damage to university property.
He said he had no authority to
address workers who had their own bosses and stressed that all measures taken
had been for the benefit of the
42 000 students who would sit for exams the next
On Friday morning, 13 workers were arrested for contravening a
court order to stay 500m away from campus.
Just before 1pm, a group of about 150 made their way up the nearby Kingsway Road.
As they approached the main entrance, a human police barricade could be seen.
The group walked in complete silence, hands held above
By 3pm, 141 of them had been arrested and taken to the Brixton Police Station. A group of students immediately set
up camp there.
Lawyers were initially denied access to the group while the protesters were
being charged, which went on into the early hours of
A prosecutor showed up just after 8pm and agreed to let the group off with a warning, on condition that they appeared
in court tomorrow. But the students still had to be