'Are we safe?': Fort Hare vice-chancellor pleads with Ramaphosa to take action following attacks

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
University of Fort Hare vice-chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu
University of Fort Hare vice-chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu
PHOTO: Alaister Russell, Gallo Images, Sunday Time
  • Fort Hare University vice-chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu says the attacks against those close to him will continue should no action be taken. 
  • Buhlungu's bodyguard, Mboneli Vesele, died in an attempt on his life. He was moved to a safe location.
  • A memorial service for Vesele was held on Thursday. 

University of Fort Hare vice-chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu has made an urgent plea to President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in the attacks against the institution.

Several staff members and officials have been targeted over the past several months.

Buhlungu, who was appointed for a second term last year after becoming vice-chancellor in 2017, was credited with implementing turnaround strategies and rooting out corruption at the scandal-plagued Fort Hare.

The attacks reached a boiling point this week after Buhlungu's bodyguard, Mboneli Vesele, was gunned down. He has since been moved to a safe location.

The shooting happened outside Buhlungu's residence in Alice, the Eastern Cape. 

The vice-chancellor was speaking at a memorial service for Vesele on Thursday where close family members and friends gathered. 

"I have a question Mr President of the Republic, are we safe? Am I safe? Is my executive safe? Are my staff safe? At the end of the day there's only one person that can answer that question and it is important that I appeal to the top authority of the country," he said. 

READ | Fort Hare under threat: Management will only meet with Nzimande once security services give go-ahead

Buhlungu added he received a phone call from Ramaphosa following Vesele's death and in turn, Ramaphosa dispatched three ministers to visit the institution. 

"We had a long discussion with the ministers and the commissioner. Rest assured, this strategy of these attacks is to hit anyone close to me, this campaign will continue, and the smear campaign will continue," he said. 

During the service, dignitaries described Vesele as a gentleman and close confidant. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele assured the university's management the police were intensifying their responses to the recent violent and fatal attacks that have taken place in and around the university.

On Wednesday, Cele, along with Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa and national police commissioner General Fannie Masemola, visited the province, where a multidisciplinary team has been established to investigate the pattern of threats on the lives of staff members.
Buhlungu's bodyguard Mboneli Vesele
Buhlungu's bodyguard Mboneli Vesele
News24 supplied

The team, which will report directly to the office of the national commissioner, is expected to commence its investigations into Vesele's murder.

The scope of the investigative team will also include other attempted hits on university staff, including the murder of Fort Hare University fleet manager Petrus Roets who was shot dead in March last year. 

READ | Task team to probe 'pattern of threats on the lives of staff' at University of Fort Hare

Cele said this high-level intervention was necessary and must produce results.

He added:

It is quite clear that the local police are just not working fast enough in making arrests and this newly established national team, through its work, must send a strong message to criminals that this government will not be threatened or shaken and will certainly not back down or co-govern with criminals.

The team will include detectives, forensic analysts, Crime Intelligence, members of the organised crime unit and Hawks.

"As we start the academic year, we can't afford to have anyone, be it a student, a lecturer and even a groundsman or cleaner of this institution feel uneasy about their safety.

"This is why the team must work closely with university staff and the intelligence community to crack the cases that will see the culprits go to jail. This, I am sure will guarantee that this respected institution is not turned into a killing field," Cele said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Voting Booth
Are you still optimistic about the future of South Africa?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, I believe the potential is still there
19% - 755 votes
No, I feel we cannot reverse the damage that has been done
49% - 1981 votes
I will only be able to say after the 2024 elections
32% - 1297 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.