Police have confirmed a sexual assault case has been opened at Alexandra Road Police Station in the wake of violent student protests which gripped several campuses of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). This comes after a claim emerged that a student was raped during the protests, which also led to the closure of the institution’s campuses until September 20.
In a written reply to The Citizen yesterday, police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said investigations into whether the alleged incident was related to the unrest at the campuses were ongoing.
“No arrests have been made at this stage,” Zwane said. He said the police were concerned that despite the widely reported claims this week that a student was raped by a police officer in Pietermaritzburg, no report of a rape has been received.
“We, however, acknowledge that a student in Pietermaritzburg did report a case of sexual assault while students were being pushed back by police. The matter is currently receiving attention,” Zwane said.
Acting commissioner for KwaZulu-Natal Major-General Bhekinkosi Langa expressed his concern that certain parties are claiming police have failed to investigate the alleged rape.
“We are committed to dealing firmly with police officers who make themselves guilty of misconduct or commit crime. But it is impossible to investigate a crime that has not been reported. Until such time that someone comes forward to report a case, we cannot confirm if such an incident did indeed take place,” he said.
Zwane said the situation at UKZN was calm yesterday with no further incidents reported. A total of 25 students were arrested for public violence, as well as contravening a court order. A building at the Howard campus was set alight.
According to university spokesperson Sejal Desai, five buildings were either torched or damaged during the protest. The protests also comes at a time when a decision on whether there will be fee increases for next year is yet to be pronounced.
The department of higher education and training, led by Minister Blade Nzimande, has repeatedly said it was still engaging with stakeholders on the matter, while students, on the other hand, have made it clear they want free education now.