Johannesburg – The former president of the North West University's Mahikeng campus' Students Representative Council (SRC) on Wednesday denied claims that he had caused disruptions on campus that led to violent clashes
Linda Mabengwane said he had been denied access to the university's premises and was standing outside when a group of students approached him, demanding that he address them.
It appeared that the students were not pleased with a newly elected SRC that was inaugurated earlier in the morning. Mabengwane said the new SRC had not been democratically elected.
"The democratically elected SRC has been dissolved and management appointed a SRC that will defend their interests," he said, describing the new leaders as "management's puppets" and saying students wouldn't recognise them as leaders.
"They must know that wherever they go, they will be confronted with the highest level of force."
Mabengwane said he had initially declined the students' invitation to address them on campus, but had no choice once the crowd became more insistent.
"I did not bring disruption, students went outside campus and demanded that I address them; [initially] I refused."
Addressed the crowd
He was eventually led on to campus premises, where he addressed the crowd. This happened just as the new SRC had been officially announced to the student body at the campus's Great Hall.
"I told them to never accept appointed leadership. We don't have space for sell-outs in the North West University," Mabengwane said.
Earlier, university spokesperson Koos Degenaar confirmed to News24 that campus security had used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd gathered to listen to Mabengwane.
"They were firing rubber bullets and students were throwing stones back at the police," he said.
He said Mabengwane and other members of the SRC were suspended and the council dissolved because, "according to the constitution, they had become incapable of doing their jobs".
Mabengwane confirmed the presence of police on campus, but said the excessive force used on students had come from campus security personnel. "The vice chancellor hired those people to come and shoot at students."
'I even cried'
He said he saw many students who sustained serious injuries during the clashes. "I saw many of them, I even cried. I'm a very strong fighter, when I looked at them, I had no choice but to let a tear out.
"Some have been shot in the head, some in the buttocks and some in the thigh. They were shot [while they were] running away, they did not have anything to attack with."
Mabengwane said when the students went to the campus clinic to have someone attend to their wounds, they were sent away because they had been involved in protests on campus.
"They were taken to the campus clinic, but when they got there, they were told they couldn't be assisted because they have been taking part in a protest.
"I was there, I heard the nurse telling them that. I saw her with my own eyes."
However, Degenaar had told News24 earlier that all injured students were treated at the clinic before being taken to a nearby hospital.
He denied reports that a student had been killed during the clash.