Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban – Durban University of Technology (DUT) Student Representative Council (SRC) president Thamsanqa Memela said on Monday that neither he nor any other students had tried to set alight one of the institution’s security guards last week, for which they have been charged.

“...It was not a matter of students attacking a security guard, it was the security guard going to students to intimate them. So they didn’t even...there was no petrol there, maybe members of the community tried to burn [the security guard] but there is no student under my leadership who tried to burn a security guard,” said Memela.  

He was speaking to media outside DUT’s Steve Biko campus in Berea.

Memela, a member of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC), has been charged with attempted murder and public violence alongside fellow students Solathiso Dlamini, Luzuko Stali, Thabiso Mathenjwa, Thobani Khanyeza, Mluleki Mkhize, Thabo Mkhwelanga, Sinqobile Myeni and Jula Sinqobele.

They made their first appearance last week and were granted R2000 bail each. The case was postponed to December.

The attempted torching of the security guard allegedly took place while students were protesting the assault and subsequent hospitalisation of fellow student Sandile Ndlovu, who was stabbed and robbed in a lecture hall on campus two weeks ago.

Ndlovu, an 18-year-old first year industrial engineering student, died of his injuries on Saturday.

Memela said that Ndlovu “was joining fighter Mlungisi Madonsela”.

Madonsela was shot by a security guard after a group of students initiated a violent protest at the institution in February that led to a DUT staff member being assaulted and having to undergo surgery. Madonsela died in hospital. 

Memela said the common thread between the deaths of Madonsela, Ndlovu and others, was that “no one saw anything”.

“The cameras of the university are not working when someone is murdered in daylight, yet when the university wants to prosecute and suspend student activists, footage is produced as evidence to suspend all activists who are demanding nothing but justice....”

Memela called for the removal of DUT’s vice-chancellor, professor Thandwa Mthembu, and the firing of the security company contracted to the institution, both of which have frequently heard demands from the student representatives.

He said that when the attempt to set alight the guard took place, the students were in a park.

“Actually we weren’t even close to the campus, [we were] outside in the park where we were enjoying ourselves as students, talking about the way forward for the upcoming week.

“So what happened is the security – I am not sure if it was really security – a person came to the park where he intimidated students. I saw him [pushing his finger into the forehead of one of the students]. And I didn’t even go there to attend because I didn’t even know that it’s just a security (sic).

“It’s not even students, there were also members of the community there. So you cannot say it was students, whereas they are not even on campus (sic). The security came to the park where students were just sitting somewhere having revolutionary drinks.

“So you can’t come to a park and just intimidate people. It was students and members of the community. And the [security guards have no authority] to arrest students away from the campus. They only arrest students when they are on the campus and striking or doing whatever."

Memela said that as they were mourning Ndlovu’s death, “[W]e are wondering amongst ourselves that who is next to be killed in this university. In the midst of everything, [the] SRC has called for the immediate termination of contracts between DUT and Excellence security company due to the fact the security company has failed to meet the terms of contract which was to ensure student safety in this university (sic)”.  

African News Agency/ANA