By Jess Levy & Sian Cohen
Vice-chancellor, Dr. Saleem Badat, stopped a Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) guard from walking away after kicking a Rhodes student during this year’s annual Tri-varsity event in Port Elizabeth. On Saturday, at about 4:30pm James* followed his friend who was being escorted out of the stadium. James noticed that the guards were being “excessive” towards his friend and he told them to “chill out”. James became disorientated when he fell to the floor, but recalls being thrown to the ground, kicked in the stomach, picked up and thrown down again and then kicked in the face.
The vice-chancellor stepped out onto the ledge behind the viewing box when he noticed this. “Two security guards were very firmly ushering one of our students to the gate [who] was resisting. This did not trouble me at all,” he said. Dr Badat then saw the student falling to the ground. No force was apparent at this stage and there was no blood on the student at all. According to Dr Badat, “[The security guard] lifted his leg and aimed a kick at the head of the student.” It was then that the vice-chancellor ran down the stairs to intervene and saw blood on James’ head. “I made my way straight to the security guard who had aimed that kick, because he was about to move away,” he said. Dr Badat then grabbed the security guard’s arm and said, “You cannot kick one of my students on the head.” Kate Townshend, James’ friend, was walking out the bathrooms and saw someone being beaten up. She said, “James was being kicked again and again and again, then I saw there were two people on him.” Townshend said one of the security guards was “kicking him repeatedly in the face”. Not knowing what to do, she took out her camera. “If the vice-chancellor hadn’t stopped them and used his authority I don’t know what would have happened because there were so many security guards,” said Townshend. James sustained scratches on the back of his neck, had six stitches above his eye and also had to have a plate put in his upper cheek. James said that the incident was “totally unprovoked” and was quite impressed and very grateful to the vice-chancellor. “Honestly I don’t think people would take it seriously if the vice-chancellor had not seen it,” said James. Dr Badat said, “I intervened to make sure that that assault would not occur without someone being held responsible.”
James has reported the matter to the police and is consulting with his lawyers in order to call a civil action for damages. It is yet to be discovered whether the security guard is employed or contracted by NMMU. The university confirmed the incident and says that it is being investigated. Further attempts to contact the university were unsuccessful. With regards to the future of Tri-varsity, Dr Badat said, “Out of this incident there will be a high level discussion. Looking at the whole of Tri-varsity, looking at the concerns and talking about security.”
*Not his real name