Durban – The Durban University of Technology (DUT) has declared February 5, a day of commemoration for slain student Mlungisi Madonsela, vice-chancellor professor Thandwa Mthembu said on Wednesday.
“The day of February 5 and the week of the loss of Mr. Madonsela will be commemorated by the university starting in 2020,” said Mthembu.
He was addressing academics, dignitaries and other guests during DUT’s state of the university address (SOUA) at the institution’s Steve Biko campus.
Mthembu said the institution had considered cancelling the SOUA given the “dramatic events” preceding the occasion, but decided against it.
He then asked attendees to rise and consider a moment’s silence in honour of Madonsela and departed staff.
DUT has been plagued by a series of violent protests and disruptions, mainly at the Steve Biko campus, since early February, which led to delays in the registration process and lectures.
The academic programme was suspended after February 5, when Madonsela was shot during an altercation with security guards contracted to the institution. He later died in hospital.
Preceding the incident, students at various tertiary education institutions throughout the province embarked on a “total shutdown” of campuses, with DUT’s SRC heeding the call.
The students had been protesting inadequate or no accommodation and problems with access to student funding.
Madonsela was allegedly part of a group of about 30 students - armed with bricks and rocks - that tried to storm an administration building to gain access to the institution.
DUT staff members were also severely injured during the violence, with one female employee - an SRC administrator - having to be hospitalised after her nose was broken, allegedly after being hit in the face with a brick hurled by one of the protesting students. A staff member’s spouse was also seriously injured during the incident.
The academic programme at DUT resumed on Monday following an agreement between management and the SRC. An urgent interim interdict was last week granted to the institution that barred students from, amongst other things, protesting within 150 metres of any of DUT’s five Durban-based campuses.
On Wednesday, Mthembu said he did not want to dwell on Madonsela’s death, but added: “It is my sincerest hope that we never ever experience tragedies of this nature again at DUT.”
He also conveyed sympathies to other staff and students who had been “threatened, intimidated and suffered injuries” during the protests.
“A number of investigations are taking place, particularly with regards to the death of Mr. Madonsela, as they relate to the student protests and the attendant reaction by the security officers," he said.
“Council, at its next meeting, in about three weeks’ time, will consider further steps that could be taken to understand much deeper all issues related to that fateful day. Such further steps will help the university to devise efficient and democratic strategies on how best to handle protests on our campuses.”
African News Agency (ANA)