Student protester arrested for arson attack on St Mark’s in District Six
A university student has been charged with the firebombing of an Anglican Church in Cape Town. On 28 Sept 2017 Lukhanyo Matinise (20) appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on arson charges for allegedly tossing a Molotov cocktail through a window at St Mark’s Anglican Church in District Six.
A police spokesman said university security guards caught Matinise with another bomb in his hand and held him until police arrived. A building in the Engineering Department of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology was also bombed that night.
The Diocese of Cape Town released a statement the day after the attack lamenting the unrest.
“For many years during the apartheid era‚ St Mark’s stood as a beacon of hope to all who were forcibly removed from District Six. When everything around it was destroyed‚ it stood out amid the rubble as a beacon of resistance‚ withstanding being demolihed by the apartheid government.
“Today it stands as a heritage site‚ an island of resistance amidst the towering modern buildings‚ as a reminder of the painful past. It is therefore disappointing for all associated with St Mark’s District Six that a place of worship could come under attack.”
On 6 and 7 October 2017 protesters returned to the campus and attempted to disrupt classes, but were repelled by police firing rubber bullets into the crowd. Since the start of the academic year, protests have been held at the university over tuition fees, poor student housing and in support of four students suspended earlier this year for having engaged in misconduct.
The riots have taken their toll on the school’s top administrators. On 5 Oct 2017 university Vice Chancellor Prins Nevhutalu resigned following a disciplinary hearing that found him guilty of “gross misconduct”.
In its 130 years of existence services have never been suspended at St Marks, said its rector the Rev. Austen Jackson. The church’s undercroft had been damaged by the fire, but the sanctuary was unharmed, he noted.
He told the Groundup website on 6 Oct 2017 that he was disappointed with those who had resorted to violence to express their greviances.It feels like your house has been ransacked‚” he said..
In a statement released by the university, Acting Vice Chancellor Dr Chris Nhlapo said the “attack on a church must be viewed as the most heinous attack we have seen in all the protest action to date.”
Dr. Nhlapo said: “We will leave no stone unturned to bring the perpetrators to justice and will ask the prosecuting authorities to move swiftly so that the guilty ones can be brought to book and face the full might of the law.”