Students burn tyres along Empire Road, students are protesting over financial exclusion at the campus. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
Students burn tyres along Empire Road, students are protesting over financial exclusion at the campus. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

Police told me to run, and then they shot me twice – Wits student journalist

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Mar 10, 2021

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Johannesburg - ’Baleka, run!’ This is what a police officer told a Wits student journalist before striking her with a rubber bullet.

The student was one of at least two student journalists who were reporting on the protests of Wits University students on Wednesday who were among those wounded by police rubber bullets.

Hundreds of students had taken to the streets of Johannesburg to protest against being financially excluded. They also called for fee free education.

During the protests, police fired a rubber bullet and fatally wounded a 35-year-old man who had reportedly been to see a medical doctor in Braamfontein.

One of the wounded student journalists, Nondu Lehutso, took to Twitter to relay the incident. She said she had been transferred to the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital as the rubber bullet wound was deep.

Later, she relayed how the police officer shot her despite the cop telling her to run.

“I still can’t believe what has happened to me today. The officer who shot me screamed ‘baleka, run!’

“I ran and he still shot at me, twice.

“I’m here asking myself, what would have been enough, apart from holding my hands up with nothing else, that would have stopped him?”

Wits University spokesperson Shirona Patel said the university community was ‘deeply saddened’ by the death of the 35-year-old man.

“The university extends its condolences to the family of the deceased. We condemn any form of violence and call on all persons to keep calm during this very difficult time,” she said.

Patel said they understood two student reporters were injured during the protesters, while three student protesters had been arrested and were being held at Hillbrow Police Station.

Patel said SAPS was best placed to speak about the man’s death as they were on the scene along with their public order policing units.

“The University has made available health and counselling services to students and members of the community who require assistance.

“We note with deep concern the escalation of the situation which is regrettable, and we call on all persons to remain calm during this difficult time. We remain committed to seeking creative, peaceful solutions to any outstanding issues in the higher education sector,” she said.

The police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, immediately dispatched four investigating officers after the man’s death was reported to them on Wednesday.

Ipid spokesperson Ndileka Cola said: “The directorate has dispatched four investigation officers to probe the allegations, the team will also cordon the crime scene and conduct the investigation including locating the person with the video footage, and identifying eyewitnesses”.

The Ipid is expected to shed more light on its investigation later on Wednesday night.

IOL

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