Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - "What the students desire is more equality in access to good education at university level. We support this request. But we do not condone the violence, looting, and vandalizing of property by students and the use of force by police army", says a statement signed on behalf of the Southern African Catholic Bishop's Conference (SACBC), by His Exc. Mgr. William Slattery, Archbishop of Pretoria, after the incidents of 10 October between police and students who protested high tuition fees.
In the clash at the University of Braamfontein a Jesuit priest, Fr. Graham Pugin was injured. "Fr. Graham was wounded by a direct strike from a rubber bullet to the face while engaged in offering refuge to frightened students", refers Mgr. Slattery.
The event took place at the Holy Trinity Church in Braamfontein, says a statement sent to Fides by Fr. David Rowan, Superior of the Jesuits in South Africa. "Fr. Graham has been one of the facilitators, along with other clergy and former student leaders, working towards an agreement between the students, management and other stakeholders at the University of the Witwatersrand. Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein has served as a safe and sacred space for negotiations, and we hope that it will continue to do so", said Fr. Rowan.
20 people were injured in the clash and 15 people arrested. "We feel that at this stage there is little more university authorities can do. In fact, they have generally shown themselves sympathetic to the students’ demands", said Mgr. Slattery. "But the solution suggested by the students at the moment is beyond the financial and organizational capabilities of university authorities. However, it must remain on our agenda as the priority for the future", said the Archbishop of Pretoria.
"What is to be done is for the government to ensure that this academic year is completed in peace. The government and students must now iron out their difficulties. A compromise must be considered as the huge financial demands of university free education cannot be found instantaneously", concluded Mgr. Slattery. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 12/10/2016)