'Take accountability': Family blasts TUT after student dies in varsity bash stampede

'The security sprayed water on us and others were beating students, then the stampede started'

24 May 2024 - 15:44
By Modiegi Mashamaite
TUT student Amukelani Caroline Mabunda died, allegedly after a stampede at a varsity bash.
Image: supplied TUT student Amukelani Caroline Mabunda died, allegedly after a stampede at a varsity bash.

Eyewitnesses say security personnel sprayed hundreds of students with water to contain the crowd at a Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) freshers bash, leading to a stampede in which a second-year student lost her life.

Amukelani Caroline Mabunda's death on May 10 ignited outrage across South Africa as many call for the institution to take accountability using the hashtag #Justice4CarolMabunda on social media.

Speaking to TimesLIVE a TUT student, who asked not to be named, recounted the moments before the stampede.

“Everyone was queuing [to get to into bash venue] but there were people who did not have tickets and people started pushing to get in. The security guards sprayed water on us and others were beating students, then the stampede started,” he said.

In a video posted on Twitter, students can be seen running and pushing each other while others can be seen getting stuck in the mud and falling on the ground.

Spokesperson for Mabunda's family Thulani Mathebula claimed negligence on the part of officials at the event which took place at the Pretoria main campus. 

“We found out they [security officials] were controlling the crowd with the hosepipe, trying to push the students away because they could not even manage the access points very well because there were a lot of people.”

Mathebula said the family was not happy with how they were treated by the university, claiming the institution did not call Mabunda's relatives to inform them about her death.

“The only people who reached out are students, who stayed with Caroline at her residence which was off-campus. We want answers. Why is it that the death of Caroline is treated differently from other deaths? We find it disgusting that they don't want to speak about the stampede. That is our biggest worry and we are taking legal action as a family.”

Mathebula claimed the university was protecting “their brand at the expense of the life of our sister who has passed away”. 

Mabunda's family pleaded with the university to give them closure by taking accountability for what happened to her.

“To date we are still waiting for a report that comes from the investigations of the event organiser together with the police report,” Mathebula said. 

TUT spokesperson Phaphama Tshisikhawe said the institution would wait for the police report before commenting on the circumstances around the death of the second-year contact management student.

“Until the university receives the SAPS report which will emanate from their investigation on this tragic incident, the university is unable to confirm whether there was a stampede or not,” she said.

She said protocols were followed to manage the crowd during the event.

“The number of students who attended the event did not exceed the capacity of the venue. The university had all measures in place for hosting big events as per the joint operations committee (JOC) protocols, all of which were approved ahead of the event and implemented at the event,” she said.

“The university is in constant communication with the relevant SAPS officials, regularly alerting them to the urgency of their report. 

“While the TUT community is devastated by the tragic death of the student, the university recognises that nobody and no group is in more pain than the family of the deceased at this time. For this reason, the university calls for restraint, empathy and sensitivity from the media and the public.”