Two Rhodes University #FeesMustFall activists who were arrested on allegations they were involved in a brawl with campus security yesterday claimed they were subjected to a suspension hearing before they even appeared in court.
Vuyisani Sigingqi and Teboho Mahapi, both 22, told the Daily Dispatch shortly after they were each released on R1000 bail for alleged crimen injuria and assault that pleas to conduct the hearing in the presence of their attorney, Basil Williams, fell on deaf ears.
The pair, who were arrested early Saturday morning, said they were visited in police holding cells on Sunday by university lawyers who presented them with notice of suspension papers.
They said they were visited again yesterday while in the holding cells at the local magistrate’s court and that an actual suspension hearing was held through the jail bars shortly before they were due to appear in court for the first time since their arrest.
Mahapi said pleas that Williams be present fell on deaf ears and that they were ordered to attend a disciplinary hearing next week.
“We were not allowed to argue our case, they said they had video evidence but we were shown nothing. We were asked why we should not be suspended,” he said.
The two students alleged they had been presumed guilty before even appearing in court.
Attempts to get comment from university spokeswoman Catherine Deiner proved fruitless at the time of going to press yesterday.
Mahapi and Sigingqi were two of five students arrested following alleged incidents of malicious damage to property and assault over the weekend. They were both released on R1000 bail by magistrate Ntsoki Moni.
A third #FeesMustFall activist, Noxolo Nfocwa, 23, who was arrested for allegedly assaulting a female police officer when students went to the police station demanding the two arrested students be released, was released on warning.
The three students facing assault charges are also facing contempt of court charges following previous campus protests. The students denied the alleged assaults.
They also complained that police did not give them blankets or mattresses when they were first arrested, or toilet paper.
They were also allegedly denied food brought by friends despite police allowing it previously.
Lazola Kati, a local #FeesMustFall spokeswoman told the Dispatch she believed the poor treatment in the police cells was payback for students opening a case with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) over alleged police brutality on campus.
“It was inconsistent with the previous treatment given to arrested students at the police station.
“We believe it was done in reaction to the Ipid complaint,” she said. Police spokeswoman Brigadier Sally de Beer said: “If the suspects feel they were treated poorly, they may register a complaint. They were arrested on criminal charges and were taken to court.”
Two other students, Benjamin Trollope and Kgalaletso Moerane, both 20, who were arrested after a small group of students allegedly smashed windows on campus on Friday night, were each released on R1000 bail.
All the students were ordered to be back in court on November 30.
Rhodes spokeswoman Catherine Deiner said: “We don’t publicise disciplinary information. However, I can confirm a suspension hearing was held at the police cells at the “Grahamstown Magistrate’s Court.
“This is an extraordinary matter. Three of our staff members were assaulted. The university will not tolerate this kind of behaviour.” — firstname.lastname@example.org