Some students at Tshwane University of Technology’s Soshanguve campus set three halls alight during their protest on Saturday night. Some of the students also did the same to two vehicles belonging to security guards.
In doing so, students crossed the constitutional boundary. Section 17 of the constitution states very clearly that “everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to attempt to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions”. They did not adhere to this right but in fact they violated it.
COPE urges every institution of higher learning to a have a compulsory first year course on lawful protest. Students need to understand the law as well as the ethics governing protest. There are very serious implications for them when things go seriously wrong.
Arson is a heinous crime. It endangers the lives of people and destroys property. It is an act of sheer vandalism and a serious common-law crime. If any person should die because of the fire, students will face the charge of murder.
Students who feel that protests are getting them nowhere should resort to formal independent mediation. Government must create the statutory means for this to happen. It will be the best lesson we all can take from the protests of this year.
Students should use their education to prosecute their case and should steer clear of mindless violence.
All of society must condemn vandalism and arson totally. Students who transgress the law must face legal consequences because someday soon someone is likely to experience grievous injury or even die as a result of that injury.
Issued by Dennis Bloem, Cope spokesperson