The National Union of Metalworkers of South African is outraged at the levels of violence being inflicted by both police and private security companies on students who are campaigning for free education.
At the University of Johannesburg’s Doornfontein campus on Wednesday Fidelity Security Group thugs hurled rocks and firing pepper spray at students and sympathetic lecturers. They also attacked and tried to intimidate journalists who were recording and filming them. At one point they even started fighting with the police!
The Daily Vox quotes Robyn Cook, a graphic design lecturer at UJ’s Bunting Road Campus: “The Fidelity security guards were walking around indiscriminately pepper-spraying anybody and everybody. I’ve got pepper spray all over me and in my eyes, on my face. After much discussion, students were completely calm, completely peaceful”.
The police too have been guilty of using excessive violence. At Rhodes University in Grahamstown, in scenes reminiscent of the apartheid years, protesters were dragged and shot at by police officials. Shouting provocative threats to shoot, while shooting at the same time, was open violence. There have also been violent clashes between students and police at universities in Limpopo and KZN.
Numsa strongly condemns this use of state and private security forces to try to crush the students’ legitimate, but overwhelming peaceful, protests at South African universities and to stop them exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate.
We demand that the Minister of Police and the Independent Police Investigative Directive urgently investigate these abuses and identify and discipline those officers found guilty of offenses against the students.
The union reiterates its full support for the students’ struggle for free education and urges them to unite with primary and high school learners, and young workers, employed and unemployed, to fight the common enemy – the neoliberal economic policies championed by the ANC government on behalf of white monopoly capitalism, which have perpetuated and worsened the levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Irvin Jim, Numsa General Secretary, 073 157 6384
Contract Patrick Craven, Numsa Acting Spokesperson, 083 376 7725