Student leaders fear for lives

Mhlaba Memela

Members of the ANC-aligned South African Students' Congress (Sasco) at the University of Zululand have called on KwaZulu-Natal's safety and security MEC, Bheki Cele, to lay on bodyguards for them.

The student leaders said their lives were in danger and they were living in fear.

They said student leaders from the IFP-aligned South African Democratic Students' Movement (Sadesmo) were responsible for their problems.

Last week, during student elections on the campus, Sadesmo members stormed the voting station.

Armed with sticks, they toyi-toyied and called for the elections to be cancelled. Police were called in to restore order.

The election was managed by the Independent Electoral Commission.

Sasco's Xolani Zuma accused Sadesmo of acting immaturely.

He said the former Sadesmo president, Irvin Barnes, and the movement's spokesman, Chris Ntuli, were fomenting violence.

"The Sadesmo leadership aims to destroy the future of the students at this institution," Zuma said. "They came into the voting station with sticks. Some students were beaten."

Zuma urged Sadesmo to remember that students depended on the SRC to solve their problems.

"The management talks to students through the SRC. If there is no SRC problems will escalate. We do not need violence," he said

Thabo Xaba, of Sadesmo, said his organisation wanted peace at the institution.

"We were concerned that people voted more than twice.

"We toyi-toyed outside the voting station. We carried sticks because it is our culture."

Mike Khuboni, spokesman for the university, said security had been strengthened on the campus.

"The situation is calm and police are on alert," he said.

l A Sadesmo member is at the centre of an investigation into last year's assault on university rector Rachel Gumbi.

Gumbi was forced at gunpoint to declare the previous election free and fair. Her private vehicle was bombed and her office was vandalised.

Recently the university's senate ruled that Gumbi be given 24-hour protection because she had received death threats.