On July 23, 2019, violence erupted between private security guards and students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus.
Around one hundred students gathered on campus to protest poor living conditions at student dormitories and the “academic exclusion” of students who had participated in previous campus protests.
After the protest had begun, armed private security guards were reportedly deployed to the site of the protest. Students reportedly threw stones and chairs at the security guards, while guards fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at the students. It is unclear which party instigated the violence.
In response, university administrators cancelled classes for the remainder of the day. Police later arrived at the university and reportedly launched an investigation into the violence.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a campus protest. While university authorities and, by extension, contracted security personnel, have a right to maintain security and order on campus, they must do so in ways that minimize the risk of death, injury, or harm to individuals and that respect institutional autonomy and human rights. Likewise, while students have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they have an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly. Violence during a campus protest endangers the higher education community and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.