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Roodepan - Mass hysteria among hundreds of young students participating in the National Rural Youth Service Corps (Narysec) saw them fleeing the 3SAI Army Base and seeking refuge at the Roodepan police station.
Only days after they arrived for their four-month character-building programme at the military base, the students swopped their beds at the “spooky military base” for the open space outside the Roodepan police station where they slept on Monday night.
“Hundreds of us have seen and experienced supernatural events taking place at the military base. Some have seen a snake that keeps on terrorising us, while others have lost consciousness for unexplained reasons. We have told officials about the events but they have done nothing to allay our fears.
“Even the chaplain at the base has been called to pray for us but when we told him about these supernatural events he laughed,” the terrified students said.
When the DFA arrived at the police station on Tuesday morning, close to 200 students were gathered in the station premises. Some were also walking from the military base to the station.
“There is about 700 of us who are involved in this programme, but only a few want to remain at the base. We have been told that more students are coming from the base to join us,” some of the students said.
They also pointed out that they had boycotted the meals at the base on Sunday morning after one of the students, who apparently uses witchcraft, had told them that she and six other students she was working with had poisoned the food.
“This student told us that one of us would die if we ate breakfast on Sunday morning. As a result we have stopped eating at the base. This particular student confessed to senior officials that she and six other people were practising witchcraft but the officials did not believe her,” the students claimed.
Some of the students added that the student, who confessed to being a witch, had prophesied the death of a Narysec student at a facility in the Eastern Cape.
“We woke up today (on Tuesday) to reports that a Narysec student, who was supposed to travel from a facility in the Eastern Cape to 3SAI, had died. We know that people may not believe us or may think that we are not sane, but how can close to 700 of us be mad?
“There is something supernatural going on at that military base and the officials know about the ghosts there,” the students said.
They also raised complaints that, although they had gone to 3SAI Military Base for a character-building (non-military training) programme, they were in fact subjected to rigorous military training.
“Most of us have had to be transported to the sick bay to see a doctor after being taken through the stringent military training. We have a student who almost died at the hands of the instructors in charge of this training,” the students said.
Later on Tuesday, chaos erupted at the Roodepan police station when officials from the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, which is responsible for the Narysec programme, demanded that students who wanted to go home hand back the departmental clothing issued to them.
“This is madness… you (referring to the department officials) can go ahead and open cases against us but we will not leave the clothes that we are wearing,” the students said.
They said that the officials had instructed them to give back the department’s tracksuits, bags and toiletries if they wanted to drop out of the Narysec programme.
“These officials told us that if we leave the military base, we are effectively dropping out of the Narysec programme. But the officials have forced us out of the programme because we proposed that we be moved to a different venue or facility because of the supernatural things that are happening at the base.
“They refused to listen to us and, instead, have threatened to open cases of theft against us if we fail to return the items given to us,” the students said.
They pointed out that although they had not eaten for two days and had slept outside the police station, the officials of the department had not organised food for them or any alternative accommodation.
“We understand that the officials are forcing us out of the Narysec programme but they should have had the decency to organise food and alternative accommodation while we are waiting to be transported back to our homes. They know that we are not from around here and this attitude shows that they do not care,” the students added.
The students also complained about eating stale food at the military base.
They said that they came from across the country, including kwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, to attend the four-month programme.
“We arrived at the base on Friday. Some of the students from kwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga have already left Kimberley and are hitch-hiking back to their provinces,” they said.
The 2013 Narysec students added that the department had also not paid them their stipends.
By on Tuesday afternoon, students were still leaving the military base, some joining their counterparts at the police station while others were seen walking in groups along the Barkly West road, making their way to various hitch-hiking spots along the main roads out of the city.
Although the students said that the police had committed to arranging food and accommodation for them on Tuesday, Northern Cape police spokesman, Lieutenant Donald Mdlhuli, said that they could not comment on the matter and referred the DFA to the department and to the management of 3SAI military base.
Spokeswoman for the base, Melidie Tidbury, referred the media to the head of the base, Colonel Sipho Nziweni.
Nziweni denied claims of witchcraft at the military base.
“I do not know how the students, who believe in witchcraft, have experienced it but I have no knowledge of witchcraft at the base. But it is interesting that 105 of the 380 students who wanted to leave the base have come back,” Nziweni said.
He pointed out that only a fraction of the Narysec students wanted to leave the base.
“More than 500 students have remained and we now have this 105 that have came back,” he said.
He denied that the students were being given military training and that they were eating stale food.
“In fact this is not the first Narysec programme we have had at the base. The food they are eating is the food that our members are eating and it is not stale,” Nziweni added.
Although the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform promised to respond to media questions, it failed to do so at the time of going to press on Tuesday night.
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