PALAPYE: The Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) students’ demonstrations for allowances were met with brutal force from law enforcement officers on campus yesterday evening.
The clash that ended in the firing of teargas, flares and rubber bullets left several students injured. The incident started when students barricaded all the roads leading into the administration block. The students converged and boycotted classes demanding that their allowances be credited.
According to the Student Representative Council (SRC) president, Mathiba Madigele the registry office tends to delay registrations, which affects payment of allowances. He said it has become a common occurrence for the past years that during the registration period payment of allowances got delayed.
The delays, he said, resulted in students struggling with feeding and attending to classes.
Madigele said he warned management that the students might protest, and requested that at least the university provides free meals while they waited for the allowances, but he said, his call fell on deaf ears .
At dusk, the students walked to the administration block demanding that action be taken on their allowances. Instead, he said, the police formed around to disperse them in under 10 minutes but students did not obey the order.
They continued with their “peaceful demonstration” and hell broke loose when the police officers and Special Support Group officers unleashed violence on the students.
“They responded violently to our peaceful demonstrations with flares, rubber bullets, teargas and batons. We ran back to our hostels, and they followed us. They shot teargas into our hostels and when the smoke forced us out of our rooms they beat us badly,” he said.
The SRC president also said that even the international students that had no interest in the demonstrations were not spared the wrath of the police. The students share hostels. With local ones.
Madigele said two students were detained and released very early
Divisional Commander North Central, Senior Assistant Commissioner of police Christopher Mbulawa confirmed the incident. He said four students were treated and released from the Palapye Primary Hospital for minor injuries.
Two of the quartet was injured by the rubber bullets, while others had a reaction from the teargas and another complained of chest pains. Mbulawa also confirmed the arrest and release of two students. He, however, did not rule the possibilities of more injuries.
“In such an operation anything could happen due to the commotion and canisters. We cannot rule out possibilities of further injuries and we appeal to whoever is injured to come forth so they could get assistance,” he said.
Mbulawa said the demonstration was reported to them around 8 am. They then dispatched a team to the campus. As the day progressed, the numbers of the protesters increased.
He said there was numerous negotiations during the day and students were not budging, and at some point gave the school management an ultimatum of two hours for allowances to be credited.
“There was a series of negotiations, and at 5 pm we warned them to disperse in 10 minutes. When they refused we did force them to disperse. We went to their hostels to ensure they don’t gather again, but it is not true that we got inside their rooms,” he said.
The allowance was credited early in the morning today. Efforts to reach university management were unsuccessful as they were locked in meetings.