Initially, it was a noble cause. The students were simply demanding for no further increases in their tuition fees. It was just a FeesMustFall campaign.
Soon, the campaign started to ask for a Free Education For All. It was still a noble course many argued. After all, the ruling party promised free education to gain votes.
But then, the movement became violent, the demonstrators started destroying infrastructures, torching vehicles and libraries, beating up police officers and claimed a life.
At this point, a good number of South Africans became irritated with the movement. They called on the crime fighters to intensify their efforts and get rid of the nuisances.
“Arrest them and make them pay for their crimes” was the outcry.
SAPS heedfully responded to the outcry and has arrested 567 destructive students in 265 cases related to the FeesMustFall campaign.
Confirming the arrests, General Kgomotso Phahlane, SAPS’ acting National Commissioner dismissed the insinuation that the police are targeting and arresting student leaders so as to destroy the agitation against high tuition fees.
He said “this is untrue. The role of the police is to prevent, investigate and combat crime and to maintain stability. That is the role we are playing at universities across the country.
“Those who commit acts of criminality will be investigated and when sufficient evidence is obtained after a thorough investigation, arrests will be affected.”
General Phahlane also contended against a ‘disinformation campaign’ spreading allegations about the police attacking and assaulting female students in their residences.
“We have looked into these allegations and found absolutely no evidence to support them and police deployed there have vehemently denied such conduct,” Phahlane started.
“We therefore, make an appeal that anyone who claims to have been treated in such a manner by the police should open a criminal case, provide witness names and/or evidence and allow the matter to be thoroughly investigated,” he finished.
Above all, the General counseled students that it’s unwise to carry out criminal acts during protests were legitimate concerns are raised.
“We have said repeatedly that we will support those wishing to protest peacefully and lawfully and that we believe dialogue should take precedence,” General Phahlane remarked.