Ramaphosa concedes there was 'overreach' by police in handling Wits protest

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
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  • President Cyril Ramaphosa says there was an overreach in the police's actions that allegedly led to the death of Mthokozisi Ntumnba.
  • Ramaphosa said an investigation must be done and the "those that acted beyond what they were meant to do should be dealt with in accordance with our laws".
  • He said government must deal with funding for students, despite the "enormous difficulties and challenges".

There was "overreach" by the police against protesting students, which allegedly led to the death of Mthokozisi Ntumba, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday..

Ramaphosa was responding to his address to the House of Traditional Leaders. He started his response by expressing his "deepest sadness, sympathy and condolences" with the family of Ntumba, who he referred to as a "fellow South African".

Ntumba died on Wednesday after he was shot by police as he was leaving a clinic in Braamfontein where Wits students were protesting over funding. It is unclear whether he was shot with a rubber bullet or live ammunition.

WATCH | Wits shooting: 'He was gasping' - doctor who treated victim details final moments

Ramaphosa said "our children" were protesting for the funding of their education, and Ntumba was an "innocent bystander". 

"And the students, the way I saw it on television, didn't warrant the type of resistance and push from the police, and this has unfortunately resulted in the death of Mthokozisi Ntumba and the injury of some of the students," Ramaphosa said.

"This is most unfortunate, and it disturbed me deeply. Because it demonstrated that whilst our people were protesting rather peacefully, there was overreach – it seemed like that – by the police."

He said the matter had the be investigated and "those that acted beyond what they were meant to do should be dealt with in accordance with our laws".

READ | Wits shooting: IPID to probe killing of man near student protest

"As a government, much as we are facing enormous challenges and difficulties, the issue of education is important and is a priority of this government."

"The Minister of Higher Education, Dr [Blade] Nzimande, came to me and informed me that we are facing a huge problem, in that the funding that we have for NSFAS is not going to be sufficient to fund the new intakes and also extend those who are already in the system. And there was a huge gap that ran into billions.

Solution

"And I said to him: 'Minister, we've got to find a solution, money has to be found, as much as the additional may not really be in the budget'."

He said this process had commenced and there had been "good interaction" between the Department of Higher Education and Treasury.

Mthokozisi Ntumba
Mthokozisi Ntumba.

"Fortunately, this matter was properly discussed by Cabinet yesterday and the relevant decision was taken and an announcement has just been made by ministers in relation to this," Ramaphosa said.

"We will not abandon our students. We will fund their education because it is their right. They have a right to education and our government, as much as we are facing enormous difficulties and challenges, we will continue to find solutions, because funding education is an investment, we are investing in the future of South Africa and we invest in it through educating our young people." 

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