The police fired rubber bullets at Wits students protesting over financial exclusion at the campus.
RIGHTS groups have condemned the killing of a man, allegedly by the SAPS, during the running battles between protesting Wits University students and the police on Wednesday.
In protests which started on Tuesday, a group of students closed some roads and entrances to the university. The students claim they are unable to register for the academic year due to historical debts.
The deceased man was apparently coming out of a medical centre in Braamfontein on Wednesday when he was allegedly struck by rubber bullets fired by police to disperse the crowd. He died at the scene.
The enraged secretary general of civil rights movement #NotInMyName, Themba Masango, called for the speedy arrest of the police officer who allegedly shot the unidentified man.
“The reported murder of a civilian is a another indictment to the bloodthirsty nature police have in this country. Once again, their brutal hand has left an innocent black man dead in the streets of Johannesburg. This is all because students are pursuing a noble cause for access to education. One wonders if the police have any regard for life and education in this country,” said Masango.
“#NotInMyName calls for the speediest arrest of the police officers who were involved in the reckless opening of live fire on peaceful protesters and civilians. We further call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to come out and publicly admonish the Minister of Police Bheki Cele and his bloodthirsty troops and to review the tactics which public order police officers discharge their work while dealing with students and civilians.”
Masango said South African communities “cannot continue to be handled with apartheid-like force by the state”.
“We also urge the Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande to bring an end to this issue of student funding in South Africa. We need the political will that ends the vicious cycle of the poor being unable to register in institutions of higher learning. Education is a constitutional right of all who desire to study,” he said.
Shenilla Mohamed, executive director of Amnesty International South Africa, said: “We are seriously alarmed at reports that one person has been killed, allegedly by the police, and countless others shot at with rubber bullets. Security forces must guarantee students’ right to peaceful assembly and refrain from using excessive force.
“Students have a right to express their grievances and the authorities must respect this right. They must also ensure the protection of all bystanders. No one should die or be injured while exercising their basic rights.”
Mohamed called on law-enforcement officials to comply with international and national laws and standards governing the use of force in policing protests and to use force only when necessary and proportionate.
“We call on the university authorities, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and Minister Blade Nzimande to expedite a prompt, independent and effective investigation into the shooting that led to the death of a bystander today, and make sure that, if force was used in an abusive manner, all those responsible are brought to justice. It is deeply concerning that the use of rubber bullets is still being condoned by the authorities,” said Mohamed.
Meanwhile, Leana de Beer, CEO of local student crowdfunding platform Feenix, said the South African economy stands to be the biggest beneficiary if the country’s funding woes in the tertiary sector are resolved. To this end, De Beer said nothing but a concerted team effort is required from all stakeholders and supporting role players.
“The pandemic and struggling economy have left countless families in a position where the budgets have been severely impacted, which in turn has meant that many university students are unable to settle their outstanding debt or pay their registration fees,” said De Beer.
– African News Agency (ANA) and IOL