About Last Night… Burning in Braamfontein

University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) students have been quick to distance themselves from the violent incidents which occurred in Braamfontein, South Africa, Friday night… where an SABC van was set alight, bottles were thrown at passing vehicles and students were allegedly shot with rubber bullets by police.

One student – Arnold Maflow – tweeted just after midnight: “To everyone who thinks incidents in #braamfontein are caused by Witsies, please know we are not allowed to leave campus. We have a curfew now.”

However other reports – using hashtag #habibsapartheid – claimed the violence, which included the torching of two other cars, was caused by students protesting against this very curfew, allegedly set by Wits Chancellor Adam Habib and Wits management.

One witness said that the SABC van was set alight after journalists refused to leave the area after being asked to by students. The SABC radio had been recording a concert at The Orbit restaurant. eNCA journalist Jody Jacobs had also tweeted that he had been recognised by students and asked to stop recording.

The violence reportedly also included the stoning of cars, and some smaller fires which were quickly put out. Nine people have been arrested and will appear in court on Monday on public violence charges. It has not been confirmed if these were students.

As one student pointed out: “Some of us were sleeping. Tired from a day of studying. Don’t blanket us with such acts. It’s immature.”

Lukhona Mnguni added: “Difficult 2 apportion blame on students 4 what is happening in #Braamfontein. Thorough investigation needed pity our intelligence is dololo.”

It’s alleged that police opened fire with rubber bullets, and used tear gas in The Orbit.

A number of students were allegedly injured with some taking refuge at Holy Trinity Church, the scene of this week’s iconic photograph in which a priest stood dead still between police and protesters.

One social media user said: “It may not be #feesmustfall students burning cars but it’s their fault. They have been justifying violence ever since it began.”

Another quoted Michael Caine’s character in the Dark Knight: “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

The effect of the #FeesMustFall movement has spilled over from campuses to businesses with several venues closed in Braamfonten this weekend including the popular Neighbourgoods Market, which is closed today, and the Orbit which is closed for the weekend.

Documentary filmmaker and Associate Lecturer at Wits, Dylan Valley, said: “What’s happening in Braamfontein is symptomatic of a failed system. We all need to reflect. Mediation, dialogue urgently needed.”

This morning, one South African academic and mom, Lesley Anne Katz, tweeted: “My thoughts go out to the res students, a long way from home, probably feeling scared and alone.”

Videos on Twitter: