Slaughtered cow case haunts Walter Sisulu University students

10 February 2020 - 06:01 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE
Walter Sisulu student leaders are accused of slaughtering a cow on campus.
Walter Sisulu student leaders are accused of slaughtering a cow on campus.
Image: Fredlin Adriaan/The Herald File

The high court has given two student leaders accused of slaughtering a cow on university premises a hoof to chew on.

SRC president Zandisile Mbuthuma and his deputy Zukolwethu Mabhoza were third-year students at Walter Sisulu University (WSU) when the institution suspended them in 2019. They hauled the institution before the high court in Mthatha in a bid to have the decision overturned.

According to WSU, the two facilitated the slaughter of a cow on its Mthatha campus in September. The activists allegedly broke the institution’s rules by breaking into its auditorium.

In a letter addressed to the leaders advising them of its intention to suspend them, WSU said they had contravened the Abattoir Hygiene Act.

The institution said they had disregarded vice-chancellor Professor Rob Midgley’s directive “suspending all social events” after the death of students on campus.

“Following the death of students at the Mthatha campus during the Freshers’ Braai in early June 2019 a directive was issued by the office of the vice-chancellor suspending all social events. In special cases where this has to be allowed, clearly outlined proper procedures had to be followed,” the letter reads.

“It is alleged that you organised an event without after the university procedures. The event on 21 September 2019 was organised without necessary permission from relevant authority and there was no proper and relevant security arrangements. The act that you are alleged to have committed is viewed as direct defiance of the vice-chancellor’s circular directive.

“This is serious misconduct in that organising any event without proper and relevant security arrangements put the lives of students and other university personal in danger,” the letter reads.

They also “broke into the auditorium, vandalising the locking system of that facility and threatening the security personnel are viewed as serious misconduct that cannot be tolerated by the university”, the letter adds.

In court papers, the university says it has sufficient evidence placing the students on the scene which also implicates them in “wrong doing”. WSU attached information gleaned from the police occurrence book which states that the students bought the cow from “Goodman Farm House”.

According to the information, students were seen “carrying big pots and big knives at the back of the teaching hall”. Police were called when they were seen slaughtering the cow.

Security officers said they witnessed Mbuthuma and other students “breaking the lock of the auditorium with a bush knife and thereafter pushed the door open”. One of the security officers said, in an affidavit before the court, that Mabhoza, and a group of students, approached the security officers at the institution’s gates and told them that “he wanted to show the cow to the comrades and it is then that the bakkie was allowed on campus”.

The student leaders complained to the court that the institution had not allowed them to make representations before suspending them. Mbuthuma claimed that he was not aware of the slaughter.

He said WSU’s security personnel “as custodians of campus security, should account and have a duty to ensure the university’s directives are observed”. He challenged the institution to produce evidence placing him on the scene “where the cow was slaughtered or where the event was conducted”.

The student leaders also complained that their disciplinary hearing “has no definite date and thus they will not be able to participate in their schooling activities pending an unspecified uncertain event in violation of their right to education”.

Acting judge Sindile Toni dismissed the student’s application in November but spared them the legal costs. Court officials only sent the judgment to the media this week.

“It is my view that the applicants in this case, even though they are not successful in their case, should not be mulcted with a costs order,” Toni said in the judgment.

“The reason therefore is that the applicants are student political activists who approached this court to protect what they perceived as their right to education. It cannot be said by any stretch of imagination that they were either frivolous or mischievous in their conduct. They might have genuinely believed that their suspension, and so their disciplinary hearing, were unlawful but it did not turn out to be.”