UKZN robbery raises ire over security

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UKZN feb 21 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Water cannon were used against protesting students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Westville campus. Photo: Jacques Naude

Durban - A 55-year-old man was robbed of a “large sum of cash” at gunpoint on the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College campus after being followed from a bank by armed men in a Mercedes-Benz.

The incident, which is alleged to have taken place in front of a few students and staff in a university parking lot, has raised the ire of the leading student organisation at UKZN – which has voiced concerns about student and staff safety at the university as it believes security personnel fail to conduct the necessary checks.

The SA Students Congress (Sasco) branch at UKZN criticised the security failure to apprehend the suspects and said they were “nothing but a paramilitary intended to store fear in the souls of students” – quoting a controversial open letter penned by four students earlier this year.

It is alleged that three armed men in a gold Mercedes followed the man, who was contracted to do work at the university, from a bank near Davenport Centre and pounced on him in the university’s parking lot, pointing a firearm at him and robbing him of an undisclosed sum of cash.

The suspects then sped off, leaving the university through the same boom gates amid screams and a hail of rocks thrown at the getaway car by a few music students.

Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said a case of armed robbery was being investigated by police and said no arrests had been made.

“It is alleged that on Tuesday at approximately 14.30, a 55-year-old man went to the bank to withdraw cash. He went to UKZN and parked his car, when two unknown suspects armed with a firearm alighted from the vehicle that parked next to him.”

Naicker added that a wallet containing cash and various bank cards was taken, and said police were investigating.

The university has handed CCTV footage to police and confirmed that three armed men had followed a contractor to campus and held him up.

Siyabonga Khumalo, Sasco’s branch chairman, said it was too easy for unauthorised members of the public to gain access to the university and said robberies at the campus library were rife. The taxi rank near a local eatery was also an alleged hot spot for criminals who targeted students who used the libraries late into the night.

Siyabonga said R12 000 was believed to have been taken from the man.

“Sasco would like to express its disappointment and anger following an armed robbery a few metres from the main gate where unknown men accessed the main gate unquestioned and robbed and fled through the same gate.”

The university disputed claims that there were robberies taking place near the eatery and the library.

“The university views security as a high priority on all its campuses. In this regard, UKZN has security personnel who conduct frequent patrols of strategic areas, including areas close to the library and the KFC.

“There is no recent record of any reported incidences in these areas,” said Lovemore Khumalo, director of the university’s risk management services.

Mthobisi Mnyende, the student representative council president for the Howard College campus, said they were still awaiting an official report from the university’s risk management services (RMS).

Lovemore said: “Risk management services personnel are deployed to patrol the campus throughout the day and night and there is always security presence at all access points.

“Students and staff are encouraged to report incidents of crime to RMS so that investigations and action can take place,” he said.

He said security measures were continuously being upgraded to enhance safety on campus.

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