Students ‘frogmarched’ from class

The alleged abduction from a Wits University lecture theatre last week of a black student who, according to witnesses, was “frogmarched” to a police car has been condemned by the South African National Students’ Congress and the Black Students’ Society. 

At a press conference, the students, said they had not seen first year BA student Peter Mnisi since he was approached by a group of men on Tuesday, as he was leaving an English lecture in the Social Sciences block. Eyewitnesses claimed Mnisi, a BSS member, was “threatened with live ammunition, pushed against the wall, beaten up, insulted, handcuffed and frog-marched” in front of them to a waiting police car. 

The Sansco and BSS representatives said Mnisi’s alleged abductors were men dressed in “punk” fashion and had earlier been seen moving around the university library next to the Social Sciences block, “pretending to be students”. For the past three weeks, said students, men they believed to be security policemen “clad in punk-style fashion and carrying Wits University bags” had had free access to the campus. They said they had seen such men entering the university libraries, including the law library on the West Campus, “pretending to be students who were collecting books”.

The student leaders charged a “total onslaught” on Sansco and the, BSS, linked to State President PW Botha’s post-election speech singling out extra-parliamentary organisations and universities as prime targets.  The doors of learning were systematically being closed to black students, said a student representative, and indeed many black students no longer attended lectures.

A representative of Kathleen Satchwell, the lawyer representing Mnisi, said yesterday her firm was awaiting communication from the minister of police stating the legislation under which Mnisi is being detained.

  • A police spokesman yesterday said Mnisi had not been detained in terms of security legislation and would not say whether he was being held under the Criminal Procedures Act. On the alleged manner of Mnisi’s detention, the spokesman said police cannot comment on “unsubstantiated allegations by faceless people”. Should Peter Mnisi feel he was maltreated or that he had any other legitimate complaint against the police, he was at liberty to lodge his complaints in the form of a written affidavit through one of the existing recognised channels and the SAP would thoroughly investigate the matter.  On the subject of raids on university campuses and residences, the spokesman said: “We don’t comment on routine police duties.” – Thami Mkhwanazi

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail newspaper

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