Port Elizabeth – A 22-year-old student from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University was arrested shortly after setting tyres alight to block access to the university’s main campus early on Monday.
Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu confirmed that the student was arrested around 05:20 on Monday morning under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act, which came into effect last year. He is being held at the Humewood police station.
“The student has been charged with damage to essential infrastructure, which means they may only be released on bail in accordance with the provisions Section 60 of the Criminal Procedure Act,” Naidu said.
This means the student will have to appear before the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court and formally apply for bail.
The Criminal Matters Amendment Act stipulates that a person charged with damage to essential infrastructure can face a prison sentence of up to 30 years or a fine not exceeding R100m.
Two weeks ago, nine students from NMMU were arrested for public violence, contravening the national road traffic act, and one faced an additional charge of interfering with police in the execution of their duties.
They have been released on R50 bail each and have to appear again on October 12.
Over the weekend, a mass meeting for students, lecturers and family members was held by the Student Representative Council to discuss the NMMU shutdown and protest action. The meeting was also attended by members of the #NMMUFeesMustFall movement, which has fallen out with the SRC and has been petitioning the NMMU management to have the SRC disbanded.
The leadership of the #FeesMustFall movement demanded that parents who were in attendance leave, as they were not welcome at the meeting, because the vast majority were white and therefore did not represent all parents.
“A discriminatory dynamic was highlighted by the #FeesMustFall collective as not all parties were equally represented. If indeed, parents, who are a vital stakeholder of the University were to form part of the meeting for a democratic determination of the way forward, all parents would have been given an opportunity to participate,” the movement said on their Facebook page.
“Ours was to highlight that, due to the financial and geographical implications of travelling to the meeting, the majority of black parents could not honour the invitation that was extended to “all parents”. The demographic of the parents in attendance was thus a representation of how the system treats poor black students, in that our parents were given the right to participate, but not the access to the platform for participation. It was for this reason, students requested all non-students be excused from the meeting, as it negatively affected the meeting,” they said.
Police monitoring the situation
Following the meeting, NMMU management announced that they would not be reopening any of the university’s campuses on Monday.
“Despite the university’s best efforts to date, no agreement has yet been reached regarding the resumption of classes at the University’s six campuses. NMMU is one of dozens of universities that is temporarily closed because of a national student-led protest for free education,” spokesperson Debbie Derry said in a statement.
“NMMU remains confident, however, that academic activities will soon resume and that the academic programme will be completed,” she said.
Naidu said following the arrest this morning, the protesting students had dispersed. Security and police are on the scene and are monitoring the situation.
A mass meeting of students has been called by the NMMU FeesMustFall movement for noon on Monday.