A passerby was killed in Johannesburg Wednesday when police fired rubber bullets to disperse students protesting outside a top-tier South African university over tuition debts.
AFP journalists saw the body of a man lying on his back on the sidewalk covered with a silver-coloured safety sheet, just a street away from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).
“We condemn any form of violence and call on all persons to keep calm during this very difficult time,” Wits said in a statement, adding that two students had been injured.
Several protesters were also arrested, while South Africa’s police watchdog has launched a probe into the death of the 35-year-old man.
Clashes erupted when police used rubber bullets to break up a group of students who blocked roads with rubble, burning plastic trash bins and disrupting traffic in downtown Johannesburg around the Wits campus in scenes carried live on local news.
The students demanded that the university allow those in arrears on their fees – some by up to $9,800 – be allowed to register for the 2021 academic year.
Many students have fallen into arrears because of economic hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A state-funded student financial aid scheme, which subsidises disadvantaged students and has in recent years been experiencing funding shortfalls, this week confirmed it could not guarantee paying out to first-time students.
– ‘No respect’ –
Students have since January staged sporadic protests over the alleged exclusion of some 8,000 people with outstanding debt.
The university, one of the country’s most respected academic institutions, enrols around 40,000 annually.
Witnesses described seeing students being chased by police just before the man fell down and died.
“Police started shooting. That man was just coming out of the building next door, it’s a clinic, he got shot, just like that,” said a woman who works at a nearby fast food outlet and refused to give her name.
“The police shot and they left,” 23-year-old engineering student Thabang told AFP at the scene, adding he was “shot in the body and in the head”.
“He wasn’t even part of the protest, he was just getting out of (a) clinic,” said Thabang.
Wits University spokeswoman Shirona Patel told AFP that “the protesters blocked a public road, the police tried to disperse them, and the passerby was shot in the crossfire”.
Enraged students gathered near the body, singing apartheid struggle songs such as “we are fearful of this horrible place”, with some shouting at police officers to leave the area.
“Kill all of us,” one student was heard shouting.
Classes resumed last month at Wits, a prestigious university which was the epicentre of the #FeesMustFall protests that rocked the country some five years ago.
Firebrand opposition leader Julius Malema of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party compared police actions to those of the apartheid regime.
“Police have no respect for black lives. They kill black people with ease,” Malema told reporters.
Kenyan mob lynches ‘bloodthirsty vampire’ child killer
Kenyan villagers on Friday lynched a man believed to be a “bloodthirsty vampire” child murderer, days after the self-confessed serial killer escaped from police custody, officials said.
Masten Milimo Wanjala was arrested on July 14 over the disappearance of two children, but in a chilling confession, admitted to killing at least 10 others over a five-year period, “sometimes through sucking blood from their veins before executing them”, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said at the time.
The 20-year-old was due for a court appearance Wednesday in Nairobi over the cold-blooded murders which targeted 12- and 13-year-old children, when officers noticed during the morning roll call that he had disappeared.
But a mob caught up with him Friday after he was identified by schoolgoing children at his rural home in Bungoma, more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the police station he had escaped from.
“He comes from this area and so the children saw him and knew it was him and that is when information spread around and locals started pursuing him,” area administrator Bonface Ndiema said.
“In the end he ran into a neighbour’s house but he was flushed out and lynched.”
Police had in July described Wanjala’s arrest as a major breakthrough in an investigation into a spate of disturbing child disappearances in the East African country.
His victims were drugged and drained of their blood and some of them strangled, police said.
– ‘Submerged in sewers’ –
According to police, Wanjala’s first victim was a 12-year-old girl he kidnapped five years ago in Machakos county east of Nairobi.
The murder of his next victim in western Kenya sparked protests, with locals torching the house of the person they suspected killed the boy.
“Unbeknownst to some of the worried families, their children were long executed by the beast and their remains dumped in thickets. Others were submerged in sewer lines in the city and left to rot away,” the DCI said in July.
The bodies of several children feared to have died at Wanjala’s hands have yet to be found.
Three officers who were on duty at the Nairobi police station where he was held were arrested this week on allegations that they either aided or “neglected to prevent” his escape.
A court ordered their release on bail on Friday as a probe into the escape gets under way.
Police spokesman Bruno Shiosho told AFP they have launched a forensic investigation into the identity of the lynched man.
“The locals have said it is him… For now we can confirm that a man locals say is Masten Wanjala who was on the run has been lynched in Bungoma,” he said.
Security guards held hostage as bandits attack Govt building in Nigeria
Two security officers were held hostage on Monday when gunmen attacked the Local Government Service Commission in Nasarawa state, north-central Nigeria.
The two security guards, confirmed to be members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), were tied with a rope by the bandits who stole valuables from the building.
Rammatu Julde, the permanent secretary of the Local Government Services Commission, who disclosed the incident, said no life was lost in the attack.
Julde said the State Civil Service Commission, which is beside the Local Government Service Commission, had also been overrun.
Two AK-47 rifles belonging to the security officers were also seized by the bandits who left the security personnel they were holding hostage, said Jerry Victor, public relations officer of the NSCDC, who confirmed the incident.
How soldiers slaughtered civilians, raze homes in eastern Nigeria
Three civilians were killed in a raid by government forces on the community of Izombe in Imo State, southeastern Nigeria.
At least 70 houses were set on fire in the attack that took place last weekend in the restive region where separatist movement continues.
Videos circulating on social media show soldiers shouting “kill anyone you see” as they attack civilians and burn houses in the community.
A security source who spoke to Gazette Africa said the problem started after youths burned a military van over a disagreement on oil bunkering.
“They also killed a soldier during the incident,” said the security source.
Fleeing residents, who confirmed the incident to Gazette Africa, said violence erupted when soldiers killed one civilian and injured others.
“When the soldiers killed the young man, people got angry and burned their vehicle,” said a resident Adanne Thompson, who added that the soldiers later returned with “17 military vehicles, including armored tanks” and razed houses.
“They killed three people, other villagers are still missing,” said Francis Uchenna, who disclosed that the palace of the traditional leader of the community was also set on fire.
Violent attacks and military assaults have left many civilians dead in the eastern region of the country where government forces have declared war on secessionists who are calling for a referendum on an independent state known as Biafra.
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