Jailed two free to go

2020-02-18 14:30


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Two University of KwaZulu-Natal students who were arrested on Friday night were released on Monday after spending the weekend in jail.

The students, Langelihle Yaka and Richard Mhlongo, had been expected to make a brief appearance in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday morning, but the charges against them were withdrawn and the case was not enrolled.

The students’ legal representative Phumlani Fakude said the pair were released following a deliberation with the prosecutors.

“The charges they were facing did not meet the bar set up by the court order they were said to have breached,” Fakude told The Witness.

A small group of students camped outside the court singing struggle songs in support of their legal representative and student leaders who were inside the court.

Public Order Police kept a close eye on the students.

The Witness understands that the two were arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and being in contravention of a court order that stated students were prohibited from protesting or marching at the university, or inciting violence.

Lungisani Mthalane, Sasco chairperson at the Scottsville campus, said the students were arrested following a physical altercation with the on-campus security Mi7 and the SAPS. The incident happened at about 1 am on Saturday morning.

“There were students gathered outside the main campus. The private security guards decided to call for intervention without consulting the university’s Risk Management Services (RMS),” said Mthalane.

Mhlongo, the former SRC president, was embroiled in a “heated exchange of words” with the authorities, which allegedly escalated into a physical confrontation.

“Yaka tried to intervene by asking the police why they were making an arrest without RMS. The police asked him who he is. When he said he was the SRC secretary, he was also handcuffed,” said Mthalane.

He said the students felt targeted by the police, adding they were not allowed to visit Mhlongo and Yaka in jail at the weekend.

Mthalane claimed that the pair were assaulted and strangled during the arrest. He said Mhlongo was “provoked” by the private security guards. “He [Mhlongo] told us that when he walked past the security guards to join the group of students they said, ‘Oh you’re the Mhlongo that everyone is talking about … we want you’. He was clearly targeted.”

“They were wrongfully arrested and kept in custody in a very uncomfortable environment. A student can’t just assault a police officer or resist arrest. If there was a problem, Mi7 was supposed to call RMS and not the police.”

“It’s really painful and sad. We are at a point now where students are saying they are going to lead themselves. It’s very difficult to control that,” he said.

Students have been protesting about academic exclusion and historical debt, among other things.

In a statement, UKZN said that discussions between the executive management committee and the SRC are continuing.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn

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