Two weeks ago, 18-year-old first-year engineering student Sandile Ndlovu was fatally stabbed in a lecture hall at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). The university has been unable to find the perpetrators because the security cameras weren’t working. By FATIMA MOOSA and SHAAZIA EBRAHIM.
The attack that led to Ndlovu’s death
Ndlovu was attacked in a lecture room at the Steve Biko campus. Ndlovu was hospitalised but later succumbed to his injuries and passed away this past weekend. Despite many apparent eye-witness accounts of what happened, the perpetrators of the attack could not be found. This was because it emerged that there was no video footage of the attack. The university then suspended the head of security. The suspension took place after students protested about the lack of security.
DUT spokesperson Alan Khan confirmed to News24 that: “there was unfortunately no video recording of the incident where the late Mr Sandile Ndlovu was attacked in a lecture venue.” Khan said other CCTV recordings of the campus were made available to the police for their investigation.
“The university is also traumatised following the violent attack that claimed the life of Sandile and we have supported the police investigation from day one. Regarding the incident involving the late Mr Mlungisi Madonsela in February this year, the university gave the police investigators access to the CCTV recordings of the tragic incident outside Steve Biko campus. The university denies all allegations that it is holding back footage of the attacks on campus,” Khan said.
Speaking to EWN, Sandile Ngcobo from the South African Students Congress said “there is a need for institutions of higher learning to protect us.”
Students being charged
Students took to the streets to protest against the security’s handling of Ndlovu’s death. During the protest, there was the alleged torching of a security guard. Several students including the president of the Student Representative Council (SRC) Thamsanqa Memela, were charged with attempted murder and public violence.
Speaking to media at the university, Memela denied the allegations.
Memela said: “[We] are wondering amongst ourselves that who is next to be killed in this university. In the midst of everything, [the] SRC has called for the immediate termination of contracts between DUT and Excellence security company due to the fact the security company has failed to meet the terms of contract which was to ensure student safety in this university (sic)”.
The charge students made their first appearance in court last week and were granted R2000 bail each. The case has been postponed to December.
Higher education calls for greater security
Minister of higher education, science and technology, Blade Nzimande released a statement saying that the head of security had the responsibility to ensure that students were safe at the campus.
Nzimande said: “Our institutions are a place of teaching and learning and not places to breed criminals and lawlessness. I therefore expect the university management to safeguard the lives of everyone on campus including the university property.”
DUT students feel unsafe on campus
Third year electrical engineering student Bongekile Bhengu* says students generally don’t feel safe on campus. “In our institution, we get raped and the perpetrator only gets suspended at times and nothing ever gets done about it. That’s why we don’t feel safe. Even our own security guards [can’t be trusted],” Bhengu said in an interview with The Daily Vox.
“We’re not even sure what happened when Sandile got stabbed, there’s no CCTV footage regarding that incident,” Bhengu said. She complained that the university withholds information from students. “All we know is that he was banged on a wall and stabbed in the head. Now knona we know this through the doctors who examined him after everything. DUT doesn’t give us straight answers,” she said.
Bhengu says enough is enough and students want the current security company, which is called Excellence, to be expelled. “It was Mlungisi Madonsela who was shot by the same security company. He died, we kept quiet. Now we have a student that’s on life support, fighting for his life through the same security company,” she said.
Ndlovu eventually died from the stabbing wounds. DUT security shot Madonsela in February.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) initially declined to prosecute anyone for Madonsela’s death. However, students marched to the NPA in August to protest this decision. The NPA then announced they would be setting up a review panel to relook at the decision.
“Nothing is right,” third-year student Thulani Dlamini* said about the situation at DUT in an interview with The Daily Vox. “Students are scared to go to the institution because they know they are not safe. They are afraid of going to study at night and even during the day because they know they are not safe even now,” Dlamini said.
Echoing Bhengu’s call to replace the existing private security company Excellence, Dlamini said the university must “increase security and install biometrics at the gate.”
*Name has been changed for fear of victimisation.
Featured image by Lizeka Maduna