by Zimasa Mpemnyama and Masego Panyane
UPDATE: Following their release on Friday evening from the Hilbrow Police Station, the students appeared at the Hilbrow Magistrates Court where the case against them was withdrawn by the prosecutor for further investigation.
Twenty #WitsFeesMustFall protestors were arrested earlier today following an alleged contravention of a court interdict obtained by Wits University. The students will likely spend the weekend at the Hillbrow police station as they are expected to appear in court on Monday.
The students who have not been named, are suspected of being involved in a number of actions including occupying the Solomon Mahlangu Concourse, and using a burning foam mattress to intimidate students. In statement released shortly after their arrest Wits University said the individuals had been involved in a number of “unlawful activities”, including “attempted arson, malicious damage to property, the alleged burning of a bus, the setting alight of a mattress at the back of a library and the vandalisation of University property.”
Gauteng Police spokesperson Captain Tsekiso Mofokeng said the students were being charged with contravention of a court order. “During the activities they were notified by the police that what they were doing was illegal and they should stop … as soon as we finalise our paper work, they’ll be notified of bail”, Mofokeng said.
— Panashe Chigumadzi (@panashechig) February 19, 2016
Wits EFF Student Command chairperson, Vuyani Pambo, who spoke on behalf of the arrested students shared a different version of events. “About 20 students were congregated at Yale Road, sitting eating chips and having chocolate when the police passed for the first round, second round they rounded them up with the private, over paid security, Fidelity and forced them into the van. Then students being educated as they are, asked why they’re being arrested, and the police said get into the van … We got here and asked what was the charge because at the point of arrest, there was never made to the students, or rights read to the students”, Pambo said.
Pambo says there was a “faffing around” when police were asked what the charge is. He says the university is using “Apartheid tactics” to shut down protest on campus.
The students were released late on Friday evening with no bail.