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Eyewitness recounts how men looking for their girlfriends shot at protesting NMU students

By Afikile Lugunya - Oct 4, 2017
Eyewitness recounts how men looking for their girlfriends shot at protesting NMU students

Unhappiness about security in the Nelson Mandela Bay was again brought to the fore when four suspects were arrested at about 12:00 on Wednesday following an incident that began at the Nelson Mandela University’s South Campus, where students were again protesting against poor campus security, to Central and ended along the Walmer Boulevard, Port Elizabeth.

According to police spokesperson, Col Priscilla Naidu, the arrests came after a complaint was lodged by a 30-year-old male, who was seated in a stationary vehicle in Rink Street, Central, Port Elizabeth.

“The complainant alleged that as a Ford Ranger drove past him, the driver pointed a firearm at him.

“It is further alleged that at about 11:30 the same vehicle drove into the Nelson Mandela University South Campus where students were engaging in a protest action,” she described.

“The driver of the vehicle forced entry into the campus, which was blocked off by security guards.”

Capt Naidu said that the vehicle proceeded to the boom gates, but when it could not enter, it made a u-turn.

“Shots were allegedly fired from the vehicle at an ENCA journalist, who was covering the protest action. No injuries were sustained,” she added.

“The vehicle registration number was immediately circulated and in a joint effort by SAPS Humewood detectives, Crime Prevention, PE K9 Unit and the Metro police, the vehicle was stopped on the M4 Walmer Boulevard.

“The suspects, aged between 27 and 35 years old, were arrested and detained at SAPS Humewood.”

Captain Naidu said that a 9mm pistol and ammunition, which is licenced to the driver and owner of the vehicle, was confiscated.

“The vehicle was also impounded. The suspects are expected to appear in court soon.”

Captain Naidu said that the incident is an isolated one and not related to the protest action at the NMU.

The Cluster Commander for Mount Road Cluster, Maj Gen Funeka Siganga, commended the swift action of the officers involved in effecting the arrests.

The four face charges of pointing a firearm, attempted murder and discharging a firearm in public.

They were looking for their girlfriends

According to eye-witnesses at the Nelson Mandela University, the incident happened as three topless males came on campus looking for their girlfriends just as the students’ protest was dying down.

Eyewitness, Lungisa Gantsho, who happened to be in front of all the protesting students when shots were fired in front of her, told RNEWS; “A Ford Ranger arrived at the scene and we refused to let it enter the campus premises and we were also astonished of how it passed the police, who were standing at the University entrance.

“We explained to him that we will not let him pass through because the entrance is also closed and he won’t be able to come back, but they ignored us.”

According to Gontsho, inside the Ford Ranger, there were three men and the driver was topless showing the tattoos all over his upper body.

“They passed us heading straight towards the security entrance and they said that they were looking for their girlfriends.

“As the comrades, we started singing and stood in front of the car saying that we warned you not to enter the premises of this University, so we will not let you in,” she described.

“Before I knew it, a bullet hit right in front of me and I was standing in front of the car that very moment; I thought I was going to die.”

Gontsho said that the driver then shot in the air, which is when everyone started running.

“The singing suddenly stopped as the students kept running.

“A second car approached,” she added.

“After that an SAPS truck arrived along with police officers - I thought I was dying.

“When we were running; the security guards were running in opposite directions - some just stood there - then Khanya called police to help us.”

Gontsho said that when the police arrived, that is when campus security guards “flocked” the scene.

“I’m not saying that the securities should have taken the bullets for us, but they should have called the police, not for them to just stand at the distance and run away as well - it was like we are not safe on our own campus.

“We are protesting about safety and something like this happens, where’s our safety when random people feel free to just come and shoot at us,” Gontsho asked.

“The police have since told us that those guys were arrested, but they couldn’t provide proof they just told us that everything was covered and we shouldn’t worry.”

Gontsho still accused the police, who were monitoring their protest, of taking their time to respond even after they heard the gun shots.

“I really don’t understand. We are fighting for safety and something like this happens and the police were standing there the whole time, but took time to come. It really amazes me that they didn’t do anything even after the hearing the gun shots.

“The only thing they are waiting for is for us to make trouble so that they can pour tear gas on us and start shooting,” she furiously said.

A Nelson Mandela University security guard, who could only talk to RNEWS on condition of anonymity, because they are not allowed to talk to the media, said that they don’t have guns or bullet proof vests to protect themselves, so the students must understand.

“We have children and families that still need us alive. The students cannot expect us to take bullets for them because we are security guards - that is not going to happen. We are human too and we get scared,” he explained.

Student protest

The NMU students were protesting for a second day after a suspect allegedly raped a 25-year-old student and stabbed the woman inside a computer laboratory on its Second Avenue campus on Monday night.

He then forced them to help him carry computer equipment out of the building and ordered the women to pass the stolen goods to him over a fence as he made his escape.

He also fled with his victim's wallets and cellphones.

The NMU said that both students received the initial medical attention, with counselling and other support mechanisms in place for the rape victim.

Outrage at the incident resulted in the university cancelling classes as the South African Students Congress (SASCO) at the Nelson Mandela University led a student protest. The protesters claimed that security guards were listening to radio and not watching the CCTV camera monitors when the inicident happened.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip, also condemned the crime and called for the police to do all they can to bring the suspect to book.

DASO on Tuesday also outlined several steps that it said would address security concerns at the university. It also called for the night vigil.