JOHANNESBURG – Classes at the University of the Free State will be suspended again on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, protesters set fire to the statue of apartheid-era president CR Swart.
This follows Monday night’s rugby match protest, which turned violent.
The university has condemned the attacks and vowed to track down those responsible, but it also said it believes the majority of its students are not racist.
“The reaction from the group of spectators however not only opened old wounds, but trampled literally and figuratively the dignity and humanity of other human beings. This we condemn in no uncertain terms and no stone will be left unturned to find those who acted so violently,” said the university’s vice-chancellor, Jonathan Jansen.
The Department of Higher Education and Training said students had the right to protest, but should do so peacefully.
“The disruptions at the University of the Free State and University of Pretoria, as well as the violence at the University of Cape Town last week, clearly show that there are fringe elements seeking to destabilise our institutions as part of a perverse political agenda and attempting to dislodge legitimately elected student, worker and staff structures through illegal activity, violence and destruction of property. These fringe elements seem hell-bent to exploit every problem as part of seeking to hijack legitimate student concerns for their narrow ends,” it said in a statement.
Sasco weighs in
The SA Students Congress (Sasco) said protests should be seen as an opportunity to reconcile.
“We are not being unreasonable. We are demanding our rights. Twenty-two years has been too long there (sic)… Stellenbosch, CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) – they must change their language policies. The medium of instruction in the country must be English, translations must be available in all languages,” Sasco’s president, Thabo Moloja said.
The ANC has also thrown its weight behind language transformation.
“We think that the issue of Afrikaans as policy has become problematic in our society. What we find problematic is that these protests are showing signs of intolerance, where there are racial tensions building up and we believe that that is unacceptable,” said an ANC spokesperson, Khusela Sangoni.
Sasco said it was not prepared to meet with AfriForum. It has called the organisation racist, for supporting the Afrikaans Sal Bly (Afrikaans Will Stay) campaign.
Both the ANC and Sasco have called on university management and the government to engage with all students.