SA 5000m titleholder Thabang Mosiako File picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - The net is closing in on about 10 white youths, believed to be North West University (NWU) students, who severely assaulted and left star athlete Thabang Mosiako unconscious.

Mosiako, 22, was attacked along with his friend and fellow athlete Rantso Mokopane, 23, outside the university’s Potchefstroom campus eight days ago.

The attack, labelled by Mokopane as racially motivated, left the national 5000m champion in hospital. “I’m relieved he has been discharged. He is now recovering at home, slowly but surely,” said Mokopane.

NWU and police said at the weekend the attackers were yet to be identified.

Mokopane told The Star that late last week the varsity protection service showed him footage of the assailants’ car driving in and out of campus.

“You can tell from the video that it’s either a student driving or someone who knows a student at the university,” he said. “I believe they’ll be caught very soon.”

Read: SA 5000m champion Thabang Mosiako in hospital following attack

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Mokopane said the altercation erupted at a café not far from the campus. Three of the men were insulting a cashier when Mokopane was in the queue.

He asked the men to desist from swearing at the cashier, while also clarifying that he wasn’t fighting them, Mokopane said.

“When I went outside they were waiting for me. They started hitting us, even when we fell to the ground,” said Mokopane.

This round of attacks stopped when police arrived on the scene. Mokopane said this group of officers refused to come to their rescue.

“When the police came, I told them these guys are assaulting us. But they didn’t listen to our story. We understood that they wouldn’t help us and ran away.”

But the group ambushed them again nearer campus, and that’s when Mosiako was knocked unconscious. He was rushed to hospital with head injuries.

Mosiako is the South African 5000m title holder. Mokopane said his training partner feared he might not perform as well in the future.

He was due to travel to Algeria for the African Championships next month. “He’s nervous about (the prospect of) not performing. I can see he’s stressing a lot,” Mokopane said.

Professor Dan Kgwadi, the NWU vice-chancellor, said a probe was afoot to establish the identities of the attackers. “I really do not want to exonerate students of this allegation. We must identify them by name and student number. We’re working on that."

Lambasting the attack, Kgwadi said: “It’s regrettable, unfortunate and embarrassing that we’re still experiencing this at this stage in the country.

The police’s Lieutenant-Colonel Adele Myburgh said she would have a full update of their investigation today. She confirmed a case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm was opened.

The Star