Amogelang Monageng of EFFSC-UP, who witnessed the events, said that the EFFSC-UP were there because the struggle is not only about Afrikaans as language of tuition but that the struggle is about the total transformation of UP. The EFFSC-UP was planning to hand over a memorandum of demands to Prof. de la Rey on the day, but was also not granted an audience.
Zizi Kodwa, national Spokesperson of the ANC, expressed outrage over the “signs of deteriorating race relations and racial tensions … [after] the violent clashes at the Universities of Free State and Pretoria”. The statement follows clashes between protesters and spectators at the Varsity Cup match between the UFS Shimlas and the NMMU Madibaz on Monday evening. In the statement Kodwa says that “protest action by any group should not hinder the rights of others and equally protect their right to differ.” SRC secretary Donovan du Plooy sent out an email on Tuesday afternoon requesting all student structure chairpersons to attend a meeting with the SRC to discuss a way forward.
Timeline of events:
Thursday 18 February
On 18 February, violence broke out on UP’s Hatfield campus following mass protest action by members of Afriforum Youth, EFFSC-UP, Sasco and the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA). A private meeting scheduled for 14:30 at the Sanlam Auditorium in which UPrising, Sasco and the EFFSC-UP were to debate UP’s language policy had to be cancelled after a large number of students, including members from Afriforum Youth, gathered outside the venue in support of UP keeping Afrikaans as a tuition language at the university.
In an interview with Netwerk24, EFFSC-UP secretary general Wenzile Madonsela describes how she and other students endured insults, were sworn at and battered with racial slurs by Afriforum members. According to Madonsela, they were blocked in and subsequently attacked by Afriforum. “My beret was knocked off my head,” said Madonsela. Morné Mostert, national youth coordinator of Afriforum, said he could not confirm this as he did not see it happen.
An email from Prof. Norman Duncan, Vice-Principal of academics and chairperson of the UP language policy task team, said that the meeting, which was supposed to be held that day, was not open to the public but was only for representatives of the SRC, the UPrising central committee and EFFSC-UP.
Students, however, received messages and read on social media about the event. Afriforum Youth chairperson Marthinus Jacobs explained the situation as confusing. Jacobs said, “We started gathering at the entrance to the Sanlam Auditorium [but] security wouldn’t let anyone in.”
According to Jacobs, Prof. Themba Mosia, Vice-Principal of student affairs and residences, came outside and addressed students. “He [Prof. Mosia] said that he didn’t understand why so many people pitched [to the debate] because as far as he knew this was a closed event,” explained Jacobs.
After several scuffles outside the venue between students in support of and against Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, members of Afriforum Youth marched to the Administration Building and handed over a memorandum demanding that Afrikaans be protected at UP to the Registrar, Prof. Niek Grové.
Members of Sasco, EFFSC-UP and the PYA began their own protest, starting at the student centre and moving to Engineering 1. EFFSC-UP’s Amogelang Monageng announced that students supporting the #AfrikaansMustFall movement would disrupt classes at UP. “The university must cut the budget [for expenditure on Afrikaans resources] and redirect those funds to the students and those who are suffering,” added Amogelang. The protesters made their way into the Engineering 3 building, forcing their way through security staff into the lecture halls.
It was at the entrance of the HSB where several violent encounters ensued between the protesting students and security guards. Students in the HSB were prevented from exiting, while security battled to contain the violent behaviour ensuing outside. Students threw rubbish at security guards and the pro-Afrikaans group. Pro-Afrikaans protesters released pepper spray on those protesting for the change of UP’s language policy.
The situation flared up when a large group of pro-Afrikaans students formed a barricade around student protesting for the removal of Afrikaans. Security guards, who repeatedly had to separate the two groups of students, used chain formations to prevent the groups from clashing. The violent flares continued in the Student Centre when the two groups confronted each other yet again, sending security running to break them up.
According to a statement by Prof. de la Rey, the report for the revision of UP’s language policy had been discussed with the Senate on 27 January and is currently being discussed with students and faculties. After the consultation process, UP’s Council will consider any proposals on the future language policy. “Implementation of any changes [would be] in compliance with the relevant statutory matter that must be submitted to the Minister of Higher Education and Training,” added Prof. de la Rey.
In a Facebook statement by the EFFSC-UP, they explained that they felt that Afrikaans at UP was not economically viable, disadvantaged the majority, and that it went against the project of social cohesion as it created two universities in one. “Afrikaans will fall because it is not used as just a language of tuition, but continues to be used like in the past … it is used to exclude and create some sort of superiority … [and] remind people of how it was used to oppress,” the statement added.
Proposed amendments to UP language policy
UP listed four proposed changes to its current language policy which students and staff could give feedback on. These proposed amendments include are:
English should be the primary language of instruction in all lectures.
UP should promote multilingualism as a means of facilitating student success and building social cohesion.
Afrikaans and Sepedi should be used to provide additional support to students in tutorials, practicals and discussions.
Transitional arrangements will be put in place should the proposed amendments be accepted.
SRC secretary Donovan du Plooy said that the SRC “supports English as the only language of instruction at the institution”. Du Plooy also raised the concern that Afrikaans class attendance has decreased and that “it costs the university in excess of R100 million per annum [to present] Afrikaans as a language of tuition at UP.”
Friday 19 February
On 19 February, UP announced it had obtained an urgent court interdict against Afriforum, Afriforum Youth and the EFFSC-UP, preventing the parties from disrupting UP operations.
UP however remained closed for the day. Protests, which began at the Prospect Street gate, moved to a full on occupation of Hatfield Studios as well as a disruption of events at Nerina, before making its way to Lynnwood Road. Once there, students attempted to light a tyre on fire, but were quickly interrupted by the police. Students showed their frustration by throwing rocks at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. A total of 27 individuals were arrested, among them a Perdeby photographer.
The arrested students were allegedly manhandled and mistreated by police and spent most of the night locked up before being released on R500 bail each. Charges against three students were dropped while the rest were to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Monday 22 February
Monday 22 February #UPBlackMonday
On 22 February UP reopened its gates, but was soon closed again following disruption of classes by protesting students.
Students wore black to campus in support of #UPBlackMonday and the #Tuks27, social media campaigns launched in light of the 27 students arrested by the police, four of whom were charged with public violence and malicious damage to property.
Students comprising of EFFSC-UP, Sasco, PYA, UPrising and SRC members gathered at 07:30 outside the Prospect Street gate and began filing into campus. They began shutting the university down by entering several lecture halls and disrupting classes. UP deployed private security in an attempt to stop the students from entering lecture halls. Students and security clashed inside the EMB building, where security used tasers to contain protesters, and eventually students moved outside where Rowan Watson, manager of investigations at UP, was assaulted by a student who hit Watson in the face. (Video available on the Perdeby Facebook page)
Students then moved through campus and split into two groups. One group continued toward the Engineering buildings, where they struggled to gain access to the building, while the other marched toward the Thuto building where they continued to disrupt classes.
The two groups met at the Thuto building, after which they proceeded via buses, which were arranged by the students, to the court hearings of those arrested and charged on Friday. Students sang and danced at the court in support of the students who had been charged.
The case was postponed to 7 April and students subsequently returned to campus.
Once on campus, student leaders planned to go to the Amphitheatre to debrief protesters on the way forward, but the group was met by a line of students protesting against the abolishment of Afrikaans, headed by Afriforum Youth, whose members formed a line blocking the protesting students from marching to the amphitheatre.
A standoff ensued, with UP security forming a line between the two groups as tensions flared. Students from both sides hurled racial slurs at each other. One of the pro-Afrikaans students was injured after being struck with a mop handle.
Police arrived on campus with riot gear and a RG12 Nyala riot control vehicle. Eventually students who wanted to go to the Amphitheatre were given a path through the pro-Afrikaans supporters to do so, but as students moved toward the Amphitheatre, a fight occurred which resulted in pro-Afrikaans students chasing students against Afrikaans toward the Amphitheatre.
Anti-Afrikaans protestors began throwing rocks at pro-Afrikaans students, leaving a security guard and student injured. Another standoff occurred until the pro-Afrikaans students eventually dispersed.
Police remained on campus as students moved to the Amphitheatre and began singing and discussing their demands. A memorandum of demands was drafted (see photos on the Perdeby Facebook page). It was expected that the list of demands would be handed over to UP management on Wednesday.
UP remains closed until further notice.
Students praying opposite UP main entrance. Photo: Daniëlla van Heerden/eNuus
“Memorandum calling for the Ban of Afrikaans and all Cultures associated with Afrikaans”
Statement by Wessel Basson, leader of Front National Pretoria