On September 11, 2017, a makeshift explosive device was thrown into a building at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) during a student protest, setting off violent clashes between campus security and students.
Students on CPUT’s Cape Town campus were holding a protest over labor issues and the suspension of four student protesters. During the protest, which involved a subgroup of students attempting to disrupt classes and exams, a petrol bomb was thrown into an engineering building on campus that resulted in fires spreading to classrooms.
Shortly thereafter, campus and private security officers reportedly fired stun grenades and rubber bullets at a crowd of student protesters and chased them off campus. The campus remained heavily guarded following the protest.
A CPUT spokesperson alleged that the petrol bombing was carried out by students attempting “to disrupt exams and weak havoc.” As of this report, authorities have not disclosed further information on those suspected of producing and using the makeshift explosive.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a campus protest. While state and university authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, minimize the risk of physical injury, and otherwise respect academic freedom and other applicable human rights standards. Likewise, while students have a right to protest and otherwise engage in on-campus expression, that does not include violence or destruction of property. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.