Eastern Cape police had to flee and an armoured nyala was set alight following another round of clashes between the police and students at the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) on Monday.

Public order police members were forced to abandon their vehicle and flee on foot. Students hurled stones at the police along the N2 road, near the university’s Nelson Mandela Drive campus in Mthatha.

The violent protest, with regard to a string of student demands, including the waiving of student debt and the provision of funding and accommodation, entered its fourth day on Monday.

WSU spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said the Butterworth campus’ cafeteria was looted and a university bus torched.

Tukwayo told News24 on Monday evening that “The situation is too tense for anyone to assess the damage at the Mthatha campus. The campus has been closed. We rely on reports from security guards”.

In statement, WSU said that, because of the violent protests, and with student leadership having declared an institution-wide shutdown, the academic year was under threat.

WSU, with nearly 30 000 students, has campuses in Mthatha, East London, Butterworth and Komani.

All the campuses remain closed due to the violence.

The university in a statement said “Walter Sisulu University management has continued to engage with the SRC, but student protests have not ceased and an institution-wide shutdown has been declared by the Institutional Student Representative Council (ISRC)”.

“We now find ourselves at an impasse that sees the 2021 academic year under threat, including our staff and university property, that stand at risk due to continued student protest action.”

The university said that, in its continuous engagement with students, management negotiated its standpoint and conceded to various demands, including waiving the Minimum Initial Payments (MIP/Registration) fee to ensure that students can continue to access higher education, despite being financially challenged.

The university said, despite its efforts to engage the issues peacefully, it has experienced violence and damage to property at more than one of its campuses.

The university also said “These unfortunate events prevent students, who do not wish to participate in the strike action, from accessing their classes”.

WSU ISRC president, Phelo Matentamo, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Eastern Cape police will release a press statement at a later stage.