Two students of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus remained in hospital on Thursday, nursing rubber bullet wounds to their groins, as riot police were accused of using heavy-handed tactics against students protesting over funding packages on Wednesday.
Geology masters student Nkosinathi Jele, 25, is in Addington Hospital awaiting an operation for two rubber bullets to be removed from his left upper thigh. Jele said he was in his room at the campus residence when police aimed for his testicles and shot him at close range.
“I had earlier been part of the strike, but later returned to my room. I was heading out when a policeman jammed the barrel of the gun in the open door. He pushed me to the bed and tried to shoot my testicles. He shot me from a few centimetres away and two pellets are still jammed in there. They shot my friend in the back and thrashed us with batons,” said Jele.
Another student was transferred to St Augustine’s Hospital after he was shot in his penis. Police allegedly entered his room and shot him in the groin.
In other allegations made against the police on Wednesday:
– Pharmacy honours student Lindo Ngcobo said that she was shot in the hip and chest while in her room. She said she had remained in her room during the strike, thinking she was safe. However, a policeman had entered and started shooting.
“He slapped me and called me terrible names. Then he pulled me by my hair and dragged me into the corridor and to the police van. I could not walk,” she said.
– Another student, who would not be named, said he was shot in the hand. “I was in the corridor when police came up the stairs and started shooting at those standing outside their rooms. I tried to run into my room, but they came in, shot me and took me to the van,” he said from his hospital bed.
– Another student held a cotton swab to his face, where a rubber bullet had removed a chunk of flesh below his left eye. “They came into the residence and just started shooting at everyone,” he said.
SA Students’ Congress spokesman Phinda Motaung said police entered residences and set off teargas canisters.
“When students ran out for air, they were beaten up and arrested. There were students who weren’t part of the strike, who believed their rooms were their sanctuary. But students are being shot inside their rooms and dragged out by their legs,” he said.
Police Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mdunge denied the allegations of police brutality.
“There’s no truth to that. Police aren’t wild animals; they acted within the framework of the law.
“This started yesterday (Wednesday), when police officers were stoned, leading to nine being injured.
“There were several attempts to quell the (student) violence, which failed. We were stoned, compelling us to use extra-ordinary force, including rubber bullets and pepper spray, to curtail the rampage; we couldn’t fold our arms,” he said.
Mdunge said officers only entered residences to make arrests.
“Police only went there to arrest those that committed a serious crime. You can’t commit a crime and then run into your room and think it (your room) is a haven,” he said.
He said 103 students were arrested on public violence charges yesterday, taking the total to 150.
The university urged students to contact their faculties about the scheduling of tests and lectures.
Meanwhile, the university yesterday secured an interdict in the Pietermaritzburg High Court preventing students from assaulting, intimidating or harassing anybody at any UKZN campuses and from damaging and removing property.
In addition, the students are prevented from barricading or blocking entrances to the campuses, and from organising or participating in protests on UKZN premises.
The order directs the police to ensure that the interdict is implemented.