Nzimande calls for probe into death of Wits employee

2016-09-27 12:51
A Wits student cries during the fees protests on campus.

A Wits student cries during the fees protests on campus. (Marco Longari, AFP)

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Cape Town – Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has called for an investigation following the death of a University of the Witwatersrand cleaner during the ongoing student protests.

The employee died on Tuesday from an asthma attack after students released a fire extinguisher in Jubilee Hall, the university confirmed on Monday.

Nzimande expressed shock that the university had failed to report the incident immediately. 

"It is clear from the report that this particular death occurred as a result of the actions of protesting students who are reported to have released a fire extinguisher that affected this employee who later died. The university should have reported this matter immediately so that a proper investigation can take place."

The university had been asked to conduct a formal investigation and submit a report on what exactly happened, he said.

They should also explain why it took the university so long to report the matter, the education ministry said.

The ministry called for the death to be investigated by the police.

"This incident, therefore, painful as it is, is proof that there are people who are hell bent on holding our universities to ransom and have no regard for the vast majority of law-abiding members of the university community who do not want to participate in protests," the department said in the statement.

"This death is what I have been cautioning against, and deeply concerned about. It is further proof that there is a small minority determined to undermine the wishes of the majority and that they have gone to the extent of using violence to intimidate other non-protesting students," Nzimande said.

He said he was of the view that these "elements" had demonstrated no regard for the sanctity of human life when protests became violent.

"Ours is to work tirelessly to prevent any further loss of life as a result of these violent protests. We call on all protesters to restrain themselves from any activity which can lead to further loss of life," he said. 

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