Ok, this is a bit of a deviation from the ‘oh look, pretty’ stuff I’ve been posting lately but I can’t not post these photos. These were taken by a friend on the Howard College campus of UKZN this morning. They document a small part of the protest that has been ongoing at the campus since Wednesday of last week. We are told from various sources that the protest is centred on housing and financial aid, and certainly students of UKZN do have a rough deal where these two are concerned. They have every right to make their voices heard on these issues. The problem I have with this is that, unless the university is for some reason deliberately keeping mum about it, neither the student body in general nor the SRC have actually communicated a memorandum regarding the protest to anyone. The university claims they have not been approached to try and resolve the protest peacefully. The university also did not do anything concrete during the course of last week to call a halt to the assaults and intimidation going hand in hand with the protest. I have read first-hand reports of lectures being forcibly disrupted, students threatened if they did not leave lectures, lecturers assaulted, and windows and equipment broken. Rumours abound of stabbings and more serious assaults. During all of this neither SAPS, who were present on campus, nor UKZN Risk Management Services appear to have stepped in. From today’s photos, it appears that SAPS have called in the riot squad, but this doesn’t seem to have prevented further assaults and damage to property.

Now we all know that the UKZN SRC is almost entirely composed of ANCYL members. Fine and well. And what does the ANCYL think of these members wearing yellow t-shirts emblazoned with JZ’s face while conducting this apparently haphazard, riotous protest? I’m particularly interested in what they would have to say about the many yellow shirts in the photo showing a journalist being threatened for taking photos – my photographer friend was (as you can see) right behind her when this happened, and backed away quite quickly as soon as security stepped in to remove the journalist from the scene. Of course, I’d expect Malema to be 100% behind this kind of behaviour, but I would hope that more seasoned and reasonable ANC members would quickly understand that this protest is a) looking a whole lot more like a display of ANC power than a genuine student protest and b) embarrassing the ANC by its failure to contain violence and mayhem and its inability to properly communicate the issues at stake even to the students taking part in the protest (first-hand accounts suggest that many students are simply going along for the ride and have absolutely no idea what is being protested).

So we have here a university that is unwilling or unable to step in to stop this kind of malicious damage to person and property, even though this protest clearly has not been dealt with properly from the word ‘go’. And a political organisation that, on the face of it, is supporting this kind of behaviour, perhaps even encouraging it, for the apparent purpose of displaying its muscle to those who might consider defecting to other parties. I won’t hold my breath for a public condemnation of this protest, either from the university or the ANC, but I shouldn’t have to. They should have stepped in before it went this far.

The crowd faces off against a riot squad that seems unable to actually hold them back.

The crowd faces off against a riot squad that seems unable to actually hold them back.

How to distinguish this from an ANC rally?

How to distinguish this from an ANC rally?

A journalist is told to stop taking photos. Note the guy reaching out to grab her leg.

A journalist is told to stop taking photos. Note the guy reaching out to grab her leg.