Nursing students arrested as Cape Town college protest turns violent

Police firing rubber bullets pursue protesting students at the Western Cape College of Nursing in Athlone, Cape Town, on February 12 2019.
Police firing rubber bullets pursue protesting students at the Western Cape College of Nursing in Athlone, Cape Town, on February 12 2019.
Image: Esa Alexander

At least 10 student nurses were arrested on Tuesday while picketing about safety issues at a Cape Town nursing college.

Public order police used rubber bullets and stun grenades against more than 100 students who gathered outside the Western Cape College of Nursing in Athlone, part of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

The students have been protesting since last week about a lack of security at the college and water shortages, which they said posed health risks to them and their patients.

They claimed some of the campus cameras were malfunctioning, resulting in strangers having access to college premises.

A first-year male student was murdered at the campus in November, they claimed, but no one had been arrested.

Protesting students at the Western Cape College of Nursing in Athlone, Cape Town, flee as police open fire with stun grenades and rubber bullets.
Protesting students at the Western Cape College of Nursing in Athlone, Cape Town, flee as police open fire with stun grenades and rubber bullets.
Image: Esa Alexander

Women said they felt at risk. “We live in fear every day. There is a man called Father Christmas who often jumps over the fence and comes here. Security guards know about this guy but they haven’t done anything about [his unwanted visits],” said a student, who did not want to be named.

“We pay more than R14,000 a year for a residence that is not even safe. Yet the law says every South African has a right to safety and security. Where is that right if we are arrested when we protest about our own personal safety?”

The students blocked the main entrance of the college with desks, then started throwing stones at motorists in Klipfontein Road. They also vandalised and overturned staff cars.

Another student said the college was using the police to silence them. “This is a strategy to silence us and to not address our grievances. We don't even have access to water,” he said.

“They shut off the water supply every morning and evening. It you want to bathe you have to store water in buckets the night before or risk going to class or work without bathing.”

A female student at the Western Cape College of Nursing in Athlone is arrested by a member of the public order police.
A female student at the Western Cape College of Nursing in Athlone is arrested by a member of the public order police.
Image: Esa Alexander

A female student who was the first to be arrested said she had not done anything. Speaking from the police van she said she was standing outside the college when the police started firing stun grenades and rubber bullets.

“We were standing by the gate peacefully. When they threw stun grenades we started running and unfortunately I was caught. I don’t have any worries because I know that I’m innocent.”

CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley told GroundUp that management from CPUT and the nursing college, including dean of student affairs Prem Coopoo, have been meeting since last week with student leaders.

The City of Cape Town has been notified about the water problems.  

-GroundUP

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