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CPUT concludes residence evacuations amid chaos and a fatal bus crash

CPUT concludes residence evacuations amid chaos and a fatal bus crash
A brick stuck in a window after a protest at Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Bellville campus on 11 May 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology is quiet following last week’s chaos that forced the university to close all campuses.

After a week of mayhem, calm has been restored. The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) campuses are now empty. The university announced on Monday that the emergency evacuation after the immediate closure of all campuses had been a success.

Students complained of spending a night out in the cold after they were told to vacate their residences as CPUT prepared buses to transport them home to their respective provinces. 

On Friday, several students sent pictures and videos of themselves stranded outside university campuses waiting for transport to their homes.

The chaos at CPUT led to two buildings being set on fire last week, allegedly by protesting students at the Bellville and Wellington campuses.

When students began demonstrating on Monday, 8 May, tensions rose quickly. That evening, a fire broke out in a cleaning supply room on the Bellville campus while a recreational area at the Wellington campus was set on fire.

The students were protesting against the discontinuation of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) allowances for students enrolled in courses with fewer than 60 credits, as well as a lack of accommodation on campus, the high cost of living in Cape Town, poor quality of food at the university’s dining halls and a lack of security on campus.

The students’ protests continued despite an order granted by the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on Wednesday which interdicted CPUT students from conducting themselves unlawfully on the CPUT campuses.

Following the violence, the university decided to immediately close all campuses and evacuate students by Friday last week.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape technikon closes campuses after violent protests and arson

The students spent Friday night in the cold with no food or water. They told Daily Maverick they had been forced out of their residences and transported to central points where buses were expected to take them to their destinations. 

Lecturer Nicole Wessels said she and three others spent Saturday morning making coffee for students who had spent the night outside.

“We are appalled at how students have been left in the cold overnight. They have been here since 7am yesterday morning. Some have no money for food or water.”

She said students said nobody from CPUT had come to check on them during the night.

The university said the process took longer than expected because the institution was resolute that only top-grade buses be used for the transfer.

A written response from CPUT management said:

“While we understand this was uncomfortable for students who had a longer wait, we wanted to ensure that safety was the top priority. 

Apart from the timing delay which affected some students, the majority were successfully processed and began their journey without incident.”

Fatal bus crash

On Saturday, two buses from Intercape and Williams Coach Tours crashed on the N2 between Mossel Bay and Voorbaai in the Western Cape after the Intercape bus driver had complained of fatigue. At least six people were killed and about 32 others were injured.

While CPUT and deputy minister of Higher Education, Science and Training Buti Manamela denied that there were CPUT students in the bus, Daily Maverick managed to track down a student from the Wellington campus who said that while the bus had not been commissioned by CPUT, about six students booked the bus privately as they did not want to spend the night locked out of their residences.

“There were about six or seven of us in the bus,” said Iphithule Sigola. “The driver fell asleep and someone tried waking him up but he did not wake up. We jumped out of the window as soon as we could.” 

The driver was among those that died in the accident.

Sigola said she was bruised, but managed to complete her trip back home to Gqeberha after Intercape sent another bus for passengers that could travel.

Western Cape Mobility MEC Ricardo Mackenzie said preliminary reports suggested a bus took a wrong turn-off, with the result that it moved into oncoming traffic.

“I have instructed my team to provide any support we can to aid the investigation,” he said. DM


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