'Protesting students' arrested with 'illegal high-calibre automatic rifle'

18 March 2021 - 10:28 By nomahlubi sonjica
Police found an automatic rifle in the vehicle.
Police found an automatic rifle in the vehicle.
Image: SAPS

Two students who were allegedly part of ongoing fees protests in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, have been arrested for being in possession of an illegal high-calibre rifle.

“A crime intelligence report about a dangerous weapon was operationalised, and led police to a gathering in Braamfontein where students were in attendance,” said police spokesperson Brig Mathapelo Peters.

“It is at this gathering where members observed two students in Stiemens Street carrying an automatic rifle. The officers kept close watch and saw the pair drive off in a vehicle. The car was followed and ultimately stopped by the Johannesburg Flying Squad and the Tactical Response Team in Auckland Park.”

The police searched the vehicle and found a Galil, an automatic rifle of Israeli-make, with a loaded magazine.

The students, a male aged 24 and a 21-year-old woman, were arrested immediately. They are expected to appear in the Johannesburg magistrate’s court on two charges of possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition, and possession of a dangerous weapon, Peters said.

Gauteng police commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela has ordered an urgent investigation.

“This goes to prove the magnitude of the problem police are facing in terms of the proliferation of illegal firearms. That this could be in the arms of a student is worrisome, notwithstanding the question why a firearm of this calibre was brought to a gathering of students in the first place,” Mawela said.

The police have for the past week been monitoring protests by students of various tertiary institutions in Gauteng, particularly in Johannesburg.

Meanwhile, some universities have reached agreements with protesting students.

The Nelson Mandela University announced this week that protests at its Port Elizabeth campuses had been suspended after the institution reached an agreement with students.

Part of the agreement, according to university spokesperson Zandile Mbabela, is that all academically deserving, but financially needy students, who meet the concessions criteria, would be allowed to register upon signing an acknowledgment of debt (AOD).

“This is inclusive of first-time entering students who are unfunded, and who will be cleared for registration upon meeting the concessions criteria,” she said.

Mbabela said the senate had decided that there would be no automatic academic exclusions.

“Students who would otherwise be excluded based on their academic performance will be allowed to return, and will participate in a programme to support them in their academic journeys.”

The university said all students, irrespective of whether they were registered or not, were in the process of being provided with data for March so they could participate in online academic activities which will resume on Tuesday.

“Mandela University is mindful of not only the prevailing funding challenges nationally, but also the affect of the coronavirus pandemic on students and their academic performance in the past year. The university remains resolute in its efforts towards student access for success, while also working to ensure the continued financial sustainability of the institution,” Mbabela said.

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