Student protests draws blood

By Drum Digital
21 October 2016

The #FeesMustFall protest in South Africa has taken a bloody turn with Wits SRC leader Shaeera Kalla being treated in hospital after being shot nine times with rubber bullets at close range.

Across the province, Benjamin Phehla, a student at the Tshwane University of Technology, died after sustaining injuries during a protest.

Phehla is believed to be an outgoing member of the SRC of TUT Soshanguve Campus, and was rushed to hospital after being injured during protests on Thursday. He passed away on Friday morning.

In the Western Cape a security guard is believed to be in a serious condition after students dropped a rock on his head.

Business Tech reported that the South African Police Service (SAPS) has denied that Phehla died as a result of police action, saying that he was one of seven students who were injured when a car smashed into a crowd of protesters between TUT’s north and south campuses.

Spokesperson at the SAPS, Brigadier Sally De Beer, says the SAPS not involved in this incident.

“It has been reported, and confirmed in a statement by TUT, that the accident occurred when traffic disruptions took place on a public road between the north and south campuses of TUT Soshanguve,” she says. “The deceased was injured and later died of his injuries.  The SAPS is investigating a case of culpable homicide.”

In the statement the SAPS says they are investigating the shooting of Kalla and that the Acting National Commissioner, Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane, directed that the facts be established about the circumstances which led to the incident and the extent of the injuries sustained.

In the meantime the matter has been referred to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate for further investigation.

The ANC Women’s League has condemned the brutal manner in which the police have handled protesting students.

Speaking of the violence at Wits University, the ANCWL said several other students were treated at the campus health and wellness centre - one with a dislocated leg, and another who had fainted at the clinic.

“We find the use of rubber bullets and teargas on an unarmed group of students appalling,” says Secretary-General Meokgo Matuba.

“We believe the role of the law enforcement officers is restoring order in universities, however violent attacks on our children must stop.”

However, she urges students not to destroy property and books while protesting as it undermines their plight.

The SAPS has urged students not to destroy university infrastructure and conduct themselves in a manner that will not provoke the police.

“Members of the SAPS are once again called upon to exercise maximum restraint and to act within the confines of the law. Our approach and management of the situation around campuses must be characterised by discipline and the proportional use of force.”

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