A PIETERMARITZBURG athlete will have to watch this year’s Comrades Marathon from the sidelines after he was shot at close range with rubber bullets by the Public Order Police Unit (Pop Unit) during a student protest at the University of South Africa.Thuso Mosiea, from Westgate, who runs for the Arthur Ford Athletics Clubs, was caught in the crossfire on Friday when students clashed with police at the campus on Langalibalele Street.Mosiea is employed as a student adviser at Unisa. He has six completed Comrades under his belt. In 2018, he was among three Midlands ultra-distance runners selected to represent South Africa in the 100 km World Championships in Croatia.The 43-year-old athlete is recuperating at home after undergoing surgery to remove a rubber bullet that was lodged in his right leg. He was shot with four rubber bullets and also suffered fractures in one hand. Speaking to The Witness yesterday, Mosiea said he had just returned from his morning training session on Friday when he was shot by the police.“The room I use to freshen up in after training was locked. I went to the gate to get the keys from the security guards,” Mosiea said.He said along the way, he ran into his colleagues who were sitting near the security guard house.“I stopped to chat to them and a few seconds later, I heard the popping sound of rubber bullets. That was followed by chaos as students, who had blockaded Langalibalele Street, ran for cover inside the university property“I did not flee. We continued standing there because we were not part of whatever was happening on the street,” Mosiea said.As police unleashed their bullets on the students, Mosiea said he watched in horror as a police officer shot a female student at close range.“I shouted at the police to stop because what they were doing was wrong.There were innocent bystanders and anyone could have been hurt because they were shooting inside the premises.”Mosiea said as the police were walking out of the university premises, one of them confronted him, hurling insults.“He grabbed me by my neck and started choking me. While I was trying to escape from his grip, another police officer who was standing a few metres away fired a rubber bullet directly at me.”When he turned around to see who had shot him, the same police officer fired another rubber bullet, leaving Mosiea with a broken finger.“I shielded my leg with my hand, and he shot me, and broke my finger.”The police officer who had confronted him also fired two rubber bullets at the athlete. One of the rubber bullets became lodged in his leg.“A few minutes after, I couldn’t move, and the police just left.“Subsequent to the incident, I can hardly sleep. The brutality has left me emotionally scarred. How can people who are trained to listen before shooting be so reckless? As much as they deal with violence, they need to be educated on how to approach protests.“If they had listened to me, this damage could have been avoided. You don’t just walk into an institution and start shooting innocent bystanders.”The athlete has opened a case against police. He also intends to take further legal action against the state.KZN police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed that a case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm was registered at the Pietermaritzburg Central police station in connection with the alleged incident.“It will be investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate and as a result they are the ones who will communicate further on the matter,” said Gwala.