A man lost his life that day... and for what?
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I was passing the robots between Jorissen and Melle Street in Braamfontein, Joburg on Wednesday at the height of the Wits student protests on my way home.
A colleague and photographer, Itumeleng English, who was covering the protest gave me a fright with his incessant hooting and shouting my name, telling me to get into the car.
When I got into the car he sped off saying he was running away from the police who were shooting the students in the next street (De Beer). But we drove back to the scene of the shooting.
And when we arrived, we found a man lying on the pavement with what looked like a gun wound.
To our surprise, there was no pool of blood as one would expect when someone has been shot. Also, there were no police officers around. Just one person desperately trying to resuscitate the injured man.
As a journalist, my first instinct was to take a picture which I did and sent it to our newsroom’s WhatsApp with a caption: A Wits student shot dead.
But I realised my error immediately, that I can’t just assume this man was a Wits student.
After speaking to a few eyewitnesses, it became clear that Mthokozisi Ntumba was not part of the protesting students and was just a victim of police brutality and carelessness in handling protests.
De Beer Street is one of the busiest streets in Braamfontein, there is a Pick n Pay, the Legal Aid, Liberty Life, and other big pubs, so it was surprising to me how a sober-minded, trained police officer would just shoot randomly without considering the risk of injuring innocent bystanders.
A homeless car guard witnessed the incident and said he was a few metres away from the two police who were shooting and he found himself trying to hide in a bucket full of water.
One thing journalists failed to report on is the kids who were playing outside near the scene of the shooting and how this has affected them. I stay nearly 200 metres away from the scene where Ntumba was shot dead.
My two children and their friends witnessed this traumatic incident and now they are afraid of playing outside the flat. They were highly traumatised, especially my eight-year-old son who asked me: “Tata, so which university am I going to study since the police are shooting the Wits students?” I am still yet to find an answer for him.
Coming to the university funding issue, I am one of the many students who have been negatively affected by this. I owe three universities more than 80K. Firstly, I dropped out in my second year at the University of Cape Town (UCT) because I did not have the money to pay for my registration fees.
After ten years, I went to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) where I completed my BTech in Journalism and registered for my MTech (Master’s degree) I also dropped out on my final year (MTech) because I could not afford to pay my historical debt, which I am still owing. I owe about 33K and I have been referred to the debt collectors.
Currently, as we speak, I have signed an acknowledgement of debt (AOD) at Unisa where I am pursuing my LLB. Why am I telling you all this? It is because university funding should not be a government problem alone but a societal one. I have tried crowdfunding, such as Feenix and Backabuddy to no avail.
Sadly, a man lost his life in the senseless shooting by the police and this incident will always remind us that the struggle for education in this country didn't stop in 1976, it continues.