By DAVID MACGREGOR, SILUSAPHO NYANDA and SINO MAJANGAZA
Eastern Cape universities were balanced on a knife-edge yesterday as #FeesMustFall protests erupted and students clashed with riot police.
On Monday night Rhodes University had resembled a war zone as police allegedly ordered students off the streets at gunpoint and fired stun grenades, teargas and pepper spray when they were slow.
Public order police moved in after students allegedly smashed windows and damaged university property.
Ten students were arrested on charges including public violence and malicious damage to property.
Grahamstown attorney Basil Williams, who is representing the arrested students, yesterday said they were considering bringing a class action lawsuit against police for their heavy-handed response on Monday.
National police spokeswoman Brigadier Sally de Beer said eight men and two women would appear in court today as part of a group of 100 students accused of causing extensive damage to property.
She said students had broken windows, overturned cars and thrown rocks at police.
De Beer denied police had been heavy-handed, claiming instead they had used “minimum force to restore order”.
Rhodes University lecturer Corinne Knowles yesterday said students had been terrified by the ordeal.
Describing the police action as “surreal”, Knowles said squads of public order police moved down the darkened streets firing rubber bullets and stun grenades at students.
Rhodes vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela was condemned by students for releasing a campus-wide statement saying the academic programme would continue yesterday despite clashes with police the night before.
Tensions escalated further yesterday when police arrested a student, identified only as Brian, claiming he was in violation of bail conditions imposed after a previous arrest.
Prior to the arrest, some students went into the main administration building looking for Mabizela to get him to address hundreds of students and staff outside.
Water containers were grabbed off tables in the council chamber and smashed and a painting was ripped off the wall when they could not find Mabizela.
He came out to address the students when police in riot gear moved in.
Attempts by Mabizela to prevent the arrest of Brian proved fruitless and he then joined the students in a march to the police station to find out what was happening.
Scenes of chaos also played out at the Walter Sisulu University campus in East London and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.
At NMMU, a group of protesting students clashed with another group who wanted to return to classes.
In East London, a 25-year-old student was arrested on Monday night, De Beer said.
“He was arrested in Southernwood for malicious damage to property.”
The student was released on bail yesterday.
Last night in Southernwood there were tense standoffs between armed police and students, with some burning piles of refuse in the streets.
The arrest came after WSU students rioted and blockaded streets in Southernwood.
Yesterday, WSU campuses in Buffalo City remained closed as students boycotted classes.
The shutdown comes after students rejected an 8% fee increase announced on Friday.
At the time of writing late yesterday the situation at the University of Fort Hare was quiet.
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