UFS ‘racist attack’: Duo found not guilty

2014-09-09 18:26

Two men accused of assaulting a fellow student on the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Bloemfontein campus have been found not guilty by the Bloemfontein Regional Court.

Cobus Muller faced charges of reckless driving, crimen injuria, attempted murder and assault, while Charl Blom faced a charge of assault. Both pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The State alleged the two tried to run over Muzi Gwebu with their bakkie on the campus in February. When Gwebu confronted the two moments afterwards, they allegedly assaulted him.

“We note the magistrate’s concerns about ‘inconsistencies in the evidence and exaggerations’, that the complainant ‘displayed hostility throughout the trial’ and that he was ‘not a reliable witness and is prejudiced’,” said the university today.

“Therefore, in the words of the magistrate to the defendants, ‘I’ve decided to give you the benefit of the doubt’.”

Last week, the SA Human Rights Commission found it was “unable to find any corroborating evidence to make a conclusive finding of racism and violation of human rights”, in Gwebu’s case.

UFS today said in light of the ruling and the SAHRC findings, the suspension of both men from the university’s campuses was lifted with immediate effect.

Muller was allowed to attend his graduation ceremony for a BSc construction management degree. He completed the degree last year but was not allowed to attend the graduation ceremony in April this year due to his suspension.

Blom was allowed to return to university to complete his studies.

“[Given] the ruling by the SAHRC, as well as the Bloemfontein Regional Court, the university will not continue with its disciplinary action against Muller and Blom,” said the university.

UFS vice-chancellor and rector, Jonathan Jansen, said he was glad the matter was over.

“This has been a very difficult time for the university and I am pleased to record that throughout the crisis, the student body on the Bloemfontein Campus showed remarkable restraint and discipline, confirming also the broad, non-racial character of the peaceful protests that followed.

“Our student body has matured and our campus cultures are much more inclusive and transformed as a result of the quality and depth of student leadership over the past few years,” he said.

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