Rustenburg – Reports that police shot and killed a student protester at North West University’s Mafikeng campus were untrue, provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Baile Motswenyane said on Thursday.
“Reports suggesting that the South African Police Service [SAPS] fired shots at the students are incorrect and are refuted. A short probe revealed that when the police arrived at the scene, the students were already injured and this is the subject of an investigation,” she said.
Students allegedly set alight a car belonging to a private security company contracted by the university. A residential building, an administration block and a science laboratory were also torched after tensions arose between students and private security officers.
Security officers allegedly fired rubber bullets and teargas after they were pelted with stones. There claims that during the commotion a student was shot and killed.
“Prior to SAPS intervention, a number of students were injured and were admitted to hospital for medical treatment. Contrary to reports by some media houses, no student died as a result of this action,” said Lieutenant General Motswenyane.
“Those responsible for acts of criminality will be held responsible through judicial processes. Currently dockets have been registered and will be investigated. The case involving the shooting is also receiving the necessary attention,” she said.
The situation at the Mafikeng campus was described as calm but tense on Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday night, the university announced that the campus would be closed indefinitely.
The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) in the North West has called for an independent probe into the torching of the North West University buildings.
“The senseless destruction of property estimated to run into millions of rands is outrageous. We condemn in the strongest terms possible the barbaric acts of violence and call on the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, to appoint an intervention team to mediate and resolve the impasse between university management and students,” said provincial chairperson, Paul Sebegoe.
Sebegoe appealed to students to resist attempts to misdirect their legitimate demand for transformation towards anarchy and lawlessness.
The Democratic Alliance said it condemned the violence at the Mafikeng campus.
“While the DA supports the right of all groups to protest when there are legitimate complaints, violence and vandalism must be condemned in the strongest manner possible. Violence is not an acceptable form of protest in a democracy, particularly when it undermines the rights of other students to continue their studies,” said national spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme.
“NWU has had to shut its doors and send students home which has serious implication for their studies. Of greater concern is that many students that are reliant on campus residences do not have the resources to return home and at present there is little certainty about where they will sleep tonight.”