Demos beat security man

2014-01-30 00:00

A SECURITY commander was knocked unconscious and hospitalised with fractures and torn ligaments during the third day of violent student protests at the Durban University of Technology yesterday.

But Francois Geldenhuys — who is also still recovering from bruising from riot assaults on Tuesday — left hospital and walked right back to his post on campus last night.

Despite being closed to academics and “locked-down”, some 200 students — allegedly lead by the Student Representative Council — stormed the DUT’s Steve Biko campus yesterday, to underline their demands that all students be registered despite non-payment for last year’s tuition.

The site commander for the DUT’s contracted security company, Security International, Geldenhuys, physically held security gates on his own even as protesting students swarmed under his arms, and managed to close them against the human tide, only for the mob to burst through another entrance.

As the 36-year-old retreated to the parking lot, rioters peppered his legs with bricks, tearing ligaments. Then a heavy barrier pole arced through the air and smashed into his lower back, causing him to collapse to the ground.

“I remember calling for back-up and for a medical medevac, as I didn’t think I’d be [conscious] for much longer,” he said.

Alan Khan, sSpokesperson for DUT, who joined paramedics at the scene a minute later, said: “I thought he had passed on — he was completely motionless. A few of the violent members of this protesting group have been gunning for him.”

Geldenhuys said: “Most of the students have told me they are tired of all of this, but there are some who have been targetting me since 2009. I have had bricks against my head; bottles thrown at me — on Tuesday night, I was black and blue, after I held the gate at S block and these guys were just punching me in the chest through the gate.”

Geldenhuys said X-rays at St Augustine’s hospital had uncovered minor fractures to his pelvis together with severe bruising — but that had made him more determined that protesters would see him return to work.

“I’m not some tough guy — in fact, I’m a teddy bear outside of work, and at work I’m a member of a professional team,’ he said.

“But I’m here because these criminals have to see that they cannot intimidate us or think they can neutralise security at DUT — we’re not going anywhere.”

Describing Gendenhuys’s return as “an amazing demonstration of dedication and courage”, Khan said the protests this week were “extraordinarily violent” compared to previous protests.

“They have been setting things alight, stoning staff cars, spraying with firehoses — this is totally unacceptable,” said Khan.

“Students have the right to protest, but we have over 25 000 students and less than 1 000 are involved in this violent action, so the rights of 24 000 are being violated.”

Meanwhile, DUT students in Pietermaritzburg were packing their belongings yesterday, ready to vacate their residences.

Two women spotted getting ready to leave the River’s End residence in Pietermaritzburg said they had been given notice to leave the residence until the situation at DUT had become stable.

One woman, who refused to give her name, said: “It is an inconvenience to return home to Matatiele, but I have no choice.”

She said she did not want to cause trouble as she may be evicted from her place at the residence.

A DUT official confirmed that all students had been ordered to leave the residences with their belongings.

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