Pretoria- Despite intimidation from protesting university students, police across the country will continue to do their duties wherever needed, Acting National Commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane said on Monday.
He said the country was also far from a state of emergency inlight of the rolling protests at universities, that have in recent days turned violent.
“It is extremely concerning to note that criminality, intimidation and attacks on police members have taken place at some universities, leaving the SAPS members deployed with no option but to respond with a degree of force in order to stabilise the situation,” General Phahlane said at a media briefing in Pretoria.
He was updating the media on policing and security relating to protests at the country’s universities.
The protesting students have vowed to continue protesting until government and management at universities commit to free education.
The government, grappling with a budget deficit of nearly 4 percent of GDP, has capped the 2017 fee increases to 8%.
“We believe sense will prevail. Stakeholders must also play their part,” he said reiterating his view that the protests have been infiltrated by criminality.
Fresh confrontations broke out between Wits University students on Monday despite a decision by council to resume classes today.
A group of protesting students continuously disrupted and intimidated those wishing to attend classes on Monday, even chasing them out of classes with sticks. They not only provoked the police but also blockaded traffic in Braamfontein even setting a bus alight.
Several other universities also remain closed. At Rhodes University students disrupted classes, flooded premises and emptied rubbish bins.
More students arrested
Five students were arrested at Rhodes. At least 20 students were arrested at the University of the Free State in relation to public violence and contravening a court order.
There were also disruptions at the Mahikeng Campus of the North West University early this morning and students were dispersed by the police.
At the Westville campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, police came under constant attack by groups of students who pelted them with rocks.
At the UKZN Westville campus, public order policing shields were damaged and at least two police members sustained injuries when students stoned them with rocks.
General Phahlane said this type of behaviour can never be condoned by any law-abiding person and should be condemned.
“Attacks on law enforcement officials, constitutionally mandated to uphold the laws of the land, can only be described as an attack on the state itself.”
General Phahlane went on to defend police members deployed to curb the situation saying they have continued to display maximum restraint in the face of severe provocation. Theirs is not an easy task, he said.
“They have been called upon to protect lives and property in the middle of a dispute that is not of their making. Many, if not most of them are parents and to be attacked, insulted and assaulted by the youth who they only want to protect is a bitter pill to swallow.”
General Phahlane vowed that despite the intimidation from the students, “there will be no other Marikana” under his watch.
“We are determined, and have proved to this point that our members will exercise restraint so that no student should be harmed while we attempt to maintain stability and safety in our country. We remain resolute in this regards.”
In order to ensure peace and stability and to protect the life and property of people of South Africa, the police will enforce the Dangerous Weapons Act of 2013 and the Regulation of Gatherings Act of 1993 decisively, he said.
General Phahlane also called on the members of the media to report “objectively”, without resorting to sensationalism, exacerbating a situation which is volatile.
He urged student leaders not to incite violence.
“We yet again call upon students’ leaders, students and all interested parties to act with the utmost restraint and calm at all times … we also request academics to be true academics and not to make inflammatory remarks that could tend to exacerbate the situation.”