Bloody sand marks student’s death

The university and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate have initiated separate investigations. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

The university and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate have initiated separate investigations. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

One hundred metres from the Tshwane University of Technology’s (TUT) gate and across the road lies a mound of dirt — sand that has been kicked across the bloody stain where Katlego Monareng was shot and killed.

Reaction to last week’s death of the 26-year-old law student, who was allegedly shot by police during a student protest over student representative council elections,has drawn strong reaction from the university. But outside of TUT, his killing has drawn muted reactions from the higher education community.

“No stone will be left unturned to get to the bottom of alleged election irregularities that led to the disruptions and the subsequent shooting,” said vice-chancellor Lourens van Staden.

On Wednesday, students took to the streets of Pretoria, to “garner public sympathy to force the minister of police to give this issue special attention”, said Sthembiso KaShandu, a member of the South African Democratic Student Movement, the student wing of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Who was responsible for Monareng’s death is still being determined. According to police statements, when officers left the scene no one had been injured.

Elections had gone well until 7pm when, according to the university’s management, the external company providing support ran out of blank ballot papers. Students alleged that the ballot papers had been tampered with.

KaShandu said that, by this time, about 50% of the two campuses — north and south Soshanguve — had voted. He added that voting had taken a long time because there were only four polling stations between the two campuses, which, he said, was better than in previous years when there were only two stations.

A student, Sduduzo Zulu, said one of the electoral officials was seen going to a grey Mercedes-Benz at four in the afternoon. The car allegedly belonged to an ANC member. When the official was questioned by students, he ran and students chased after him, according to Zulu.

KaShandu added: “Then there was a scuffle between the students and this man who was allegedly trying to rig elections.”

Police were called to the scene — TUT management had briefed them earlier that the elections were taking place— and they began to disperse the crowd outside the north campus.

“There were police on the campus trying to save the situation and to make sure the situation is calm,” said KaShandu. But after the police started firing live ammunition, students “scattered”.

The road outside the north campus has an incline. According to another student, Troy Mkhize, the police were positioned on the road’s incline, and the students were trying to move down the road.

KaShandu said: “It was elections, there were too many students there.” Monareng was among hundreds of students fleeing from the police — first from a stun grenade and then live ammunition.

“That is when we came to the situation that Katlego Monareng was shot and killed at the scene,” KaShandu said.

Monareng hadn’t moved more than a 100m from the university’s gate when he was shot in the neck.

The university and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) have initiated separate investigations. The university is looking into what led to the protests and the Ipid into the cause of Monareng’s death.

“The findings of investigations into Monareng’s death and the forensic investigation instituted by [the university] into the alleged election irregularities will go a long way to ensure accountability,” said Van Staden.

According to Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini, a postmortem examination was conducted last Friday but the results have not yet been released.

He added that the directorate said it takes six weeks to finalise the results of a ballistic report.

KaShandu and four other students said Monareng had died by the time the ambulance arrived.

Bonginkosi Khanyile, prominent fees must fall activist, said that what happened last Thursday was a “microcosm” of the struggle between students and police.

TUT students have been at the forefront of the fees protests for more than 20 years, well before the #FeesMustFall movement was popularised in 2015.

KaShandu believes the violence was unpre­cedented: “We never thought the day would end with him [Monareng] not even knowing if his structure had won the election or not.”

Monareng was a member of the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania and completing his third year of law.

The students want answers but they also want to give Monareng a “decent send-off”, said KaShandu.

Monareng’s funeral will be held at Bushbuckridge town in Mpumalanga on Saturday. Although SRCs have not been vocal about the death of Monareng, SRC members of the universities of the Witwatersrand and Cape Town (UCT) are planning to attend the burial.

“We are very saddened by the media coverage because I am sure that if it was happening at UCT the entire media would be starstruck about the brutality of students being killed in daylight by live ammunition in the university space,” said Masixole Mlandu, vice-president of the SRC at UCT.

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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