‘Are we safe?: Vice Chancellor Fort Hare begs Ramaphosa to take action after attacks | TBEN


Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, Vice Chancellor of the University of Fort Hare

PHOTO: Alaister Russell, Gallo Images, Sunday Time

  • Fort Hare University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu says attacks on his loved ones will continue if no action is taken.
  • Buhlungu’s bodyguard, Mboneli Vesele, died in an attempt on his life. He has been transferred to a safe location.
  • On Thursday there was a memorial service for Vesele.

Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, vice-chancellor of the University of Fort Hare, has made an urgent request to President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in the attacks on the institution.

Several staff members and officials have been targeted in recent months.

Buhlungu, who was appointed to a second term last year after becoming vice-chancellor in 2017, has been credited with implementing turnaround strategies and stamping out corruption in scandal-ridden Fort Hare.

The attacks reached a boiling point this week after Buhlungu’s bodyguard, Mboneli Vesele, was shot. He has now been transferred to a safe location.

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The shooting took place outside Buhlungu’s home in Alice, the Eastern Cape.

The vice-chancellor spoke at a memorial service for Vesele on Thursday where close relatives and friends gathered.

“I have a question Mr President of the Republic, are we safe? Am I safe? Is my supervisor safe? Are my employees safe? Ultimately there is only one person who can answer that question and it is important that I appeal on the highest authority in the country,” he said.

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Buhlungu added that he received a call from Ramaphosa after Vesele’s death and in turn Ramaphosa sent three ministers to visit the institution.

“We have had a long talk with the ministers and the Commissioner. Rest assured, this strategy of these attacks is to hit everyone close to me, this campaign will continue and the smear campaign will continue,” he said.

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During the service, dignitaries described Vesele as a gentleman and close confidant.

Police Minister Bheki Cele assured the university’s management that the police were stepping up their action against the recent violent and deadly attacks that have taken place in and around the university.

On Wednesday, Cele, along with Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa and National Police Commissioner General Fannie Masemola, visited the province, where a multidisciplinary team has been set up to investigate the pattern of threats to the lives of staff members.

Buhlungu's bodyguard Mboneli Vesele

Buhlungu’s bodyguard Mboneli Vesele

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The team, which will report directly to the National Commissioner’s Office, is expected to begin investigating Vesele’s murder.

The scope of the investigation team also includes other assassination attempts against university personnel, including the murder of Fort Hare University fleet manager Petrus Roets, who was shot dead in March last year.

READ | Task team investigates ‘pattern of threats to staff life’ at the University of Fort Hare

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Cele said this high-level intervention was necessary and had to produce results.

He added:

It is quite clear that the local police are simply not moving fast enough in making arrests and this newly established national team needs to send a strong signal through its work to criminals that this government will not be threatened or shocked and certainly will not back down or cooperate rule with criminals.

The team will include detectives, forensic analysts, crime intelligence, members of the organized crime unit and Hawks.

“At the start of the academic year, we cannot afford anyone, be it a student, a teacher and even a gardener or cleaner of this institution, to feel uneasy about their safety.

“Therefore, the team must work closely with university personnel and the intelligence community to solve the cases that lead the perpetrators to prison. I am sure this will ensure that this respected institution does not turn into a killing field,” Cele said.