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Priest shot, bus burned in violent South African student protests

Priest shot, bus burned in violent South African student protests

South Africa

A Catholic priest has been shot and a bus burned in Braamfontein in Johannesburg during violent clashes between South African police and students on Monday.

The Braamfontein Holy Trinity Catholic Church priest, Father Graham Pugin, was injured by suspected rubber bullets shot by riot police when he tried protecting the church’s gates in the middle of the violence.

This type of behaviour can never be condoned by any law-abiding person and is to be roundly condemned. We'll do our best to ensure that there's no irresponsible conduct on our side.

Videos of the incident filmed by witnesses show the bleeding priest being led by some student leaders back into the church premises close to the Witswatersrand University campus.

Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons to disperse students after they pelted stones and then set a bus on fire.

Acting national police commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane addressed the media later on Monday afternoon saying it is too early to call a state of emergency after the violence.

He said the police will “continue to display maximum restraint in the face of severe provocation … after criminality, intimidation & attacks on police have taken place at some varsities”.

Phahlane announced the arrest of 20 students at the University of Free State and also the disruption of classes and flooding of university premises by students of Rhodes University in the morning.

“This type of behaviour can never be condoned by any law-abiding person and is to be roundly condemned. We’ll do our best to ensure that there’s no irresponsible conduct on our side. We are going to work hard to ensure that we protect lives and property,” he added.

Protests marred the re-opening of Witswatersrand University after academic work were suspended due to demonstrations sparked by a government proposal to raise university tuition fees by up to 8% in 2017.

The protest spread to other universities including the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban and the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.

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