Johannesburg - A punch to the jaw followed by a beer bottle smashed over a head – because they were thought to be gay.
This was the shocking experience of two friends who were assaulted in Melville by a group of students from the nearby University of Johannesburg (UJ) last week.
The attack happened when Jozua Malherbe and Adam Bentel went bar hopping in 7th Avenue in Melville last Wednesday. Their last stop was at a bar called Ratz for a final drink with another friend, Bentel said.
“Ratz is a known homosexual bar. We were all completely aware of this fact and extremely open to it. We are not homosexual ourselves, but have many friends who are and that’s why we went into this bar casually.”
Shortly after they got to Ratz around 11pm, Bentel went to fetch his car. “I went out and didn’t even notice the students. When (Malherbe) joined me to walk to my car, they must have assumed we were homosexual.“
Bentel said the students were wearing hooded shirts with the Koshuis insignia known as Dromedaris, the UJ men’s residence, printed on them.
When they passed the students they were taunted with homophobic remarks, Bentel said.
Then the students poked Malherbe in the face, jeering at him in Afrikaans.
He said: “Oh God.”
This angered the group, who accused him of using God’s name in vain.
Then Malherbe was punched in the face. He retaliated by hitting one of the UJ students on the head with a beer bottle. “After I swung the bottle, one of the students also bashed Adam on the head with a bottle,” he said.
Then the group saw red. They beat the two men “to the ground”.
After the assault, said Bentel, the students ran down the street and got into a car. An eyewitness managed to get their licence number.
“We were rushed to the Milpark emergency ward where I received staples on my skull and Malherbe’s X-rays revealed that his jaw was fractured in three places.”
On Friday UJ spokesman Herman Esterhuizen said the university was aware of the off-campus incident. However, the story differs.
“One of our students was stabbed with a broken bottle during a confrontation in Melville on the evening of Wednesday, 23 July.”
He said it was alleged that four students, and not five, as the victims claimed, met a man who was using profanities of a religious nature and they asked him to stop this behaviour.
“The man did not take kindly to this and swore at the students. A confrontation ensued after which the man fell against a car. The man proceeded to break a bottle and stab one of the students.”
Esterhuizen said the university had launched its own internal investigation, and was working closely with the police on the matter.
“The university sets standards for behaviour that students must abide to. If an individual’s behaviour, whether or not related to a university activity, suggests that these standards are violated then the university will take swift and decisive action and institute disciplinary proceedings accordingly.”
Meanwhile, Amanda Forsythe, Melville ward councillor, said she was shocked and disappointed to hear about the assault and particularly the allegations that it was discriminatory and prejudiced in nature.
Malherbe and Bentel have opened an assault case with Brixton police, who said they were investigating.