CUT student stabbed in Bloem

BLOEMFONTEIN — A Mosotho student at the Central University of Technology (CUT) is battling for his life at the Universitas Private Hospital in Bloemfontein after he was brutally stabbed by a mob following a scuffle at a bar near his hostel.

The student whose name cannot be revealed because his parents are yet to be informed was stabbed three times in the wee hours of last Saturday at the Naval Hill Lodge, where about 206 Basotho students are staying.

The National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) secured the lodge following last year’s fallout with estate agents who had accommodated the state-sponsored students for years.

It was supposed to be a temporary residence as the NMDS continued to look for accommodation near the CUT campus.

The NMDS is yet to find alternative accommodation for the students. 

The student, who is studying for a Bachelor of Technology Civil Engineering degree, is in his final year.

He was stabbed two times in the stomach and once on the head, according to his friends and nurses who have been attending to him. 

His body is badly bruised.

His friends say doctors have told them that so far they have done two operations to repair the damage in his abdomen.

When the Lesotho Times visited him on Monday, the student had his hands tied down to the sides of the bed with strips of hospital sheets to prevent him from pulling out the intravenous catheter in his nose and mouth to administer medication.

Dark lines shadow his tightly shut eyes and his breathing is laborious.

He has bruises on his left ear and the jaw area is swollen.

His partly shaven head and bandaged forehead are a result of emergency surgery performed on him on Saturday morning, a few hours after he was attacked.

“He seems much better now. His condition was worrying this morning, but he has improved immensely since then,” says the nurse on duty when the Lesotho Times crew arrives.

TKM tavern, where he was stabbed, is a dingy bar about half-a-kilometre from Naval Hill Lodge.

It draws its patrons from Navalsieg suburb, a predominantly coloured community.

Basotho students have also been patronising the bar since they moved into Naval Hill Lodge in January.

On Friday evening the victim and his cousin went to TKM for drinks.

What began as just a few drinks “to unwind” spilled over into the next morning.

It did not end well.

“While there, more Basotho students came in and a fight erupted between one coloured guy and one Mosotho boy,” said the cousin.

“The Mosotho boy beat the coloured guy and fled.

“We carried on with our drinking and were even beginning to forget about the fight when the place was suddenly flooded with coloured guys.”

He said the victim insisted that they leave the place.

“We then approached the owner of the tavern who agreed to drop us off at the hostel along with two other guys,” the cousin said.

“By this time the fighting had already erupted back at the tavern with the coloured gang intent on seeking revenge.”

He said it was not long after they had been dropped at the hostel when they realised that some Basotho students were being chased by an angry coloured mob advancing towards their residence.

“We tried to lock the gates but failed,” he said.

“Then we scrambled for cover inside, closing the security burglar door behind us.

“(The injured student) went straight to his room.

“But no sooner had we entered the building than the mob had broken the door and burst in.

“Apparently it was at this point that my cousin came out from his room unaware that the mob had broken into the building.

“I hear they descended on him, stabbed, kicked and hit him against the wall.

“I came back downstairs after the noise had died down to find my cousin lying in a pool of blood, still bleeding from the nose and foaming in the mouth.

“He was just caught up in the beating . . .  they were not particularly targeting him. He did not deserve it.”

Two more students were badly injured.

The stab victim was rushed to Pelonomi Hospital in a colleague’s car.

He was later transferred to Universitas Private Hospital.

His cousin is angry because until Monday night the police had not arrested any suspects.

“The Navalsieg police officers came here briefly but did not talk to witnesses or take witness statements,” he said.

“They only spoke briefly to the security guard on duty before getting into their van and left the premises.

“The guards told us outright that theirs was to prevent damage to property and not act as our bodyguards.

“After Friday’s incident we now fear for our lives.”

The students apportion most of the blame on NMDS director Letholetseng Ntsike for their problems.

According to the former chairperson of the Lesotho Student Association interim committee, Machaha Taleng, the students had previously told Ntsike about the lack of security at the lodge.

“In that meeting ‘M’e Ntsike seemed not to care about the issues we were raising. If anything she was very rude to us,” Taleng said.

“She said if we wanted to live in luxury, we should get ourselves alternative accommodation and get our parents to pay for it because the NMDS could not afford it.”

Ntsike could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.

This paper made five calls to her office between Tuesday and Wednesday.

On all occasions she was said to have been out of office.

When contacted for comment, the chairperson of NMSB, the company that runs Naval Hill Lodge, Baba Sebolao, said he was aware “security at the lodge needs to be beefed up for the sake of the students”.

“We were not aware that the contract entered into by the company and the landlord stipulated that the guards would only provide security to property only,” Sebolao said.

Sebolao however said Basotho students should also “take the blame as they are an unruly lot”.

“Basotho students should also shoulder some of the blame because they are an unruly lot who also pose challenges as they drink a lot,” Sebolao said.

“The attack on them was motivated by the fight they had engaged in at the tavern.

“They were being chased because they had fought with and insulted some people.

“It’s a pity that the guy who was badly beaten and stabbed got caught up in the mess created by some of his unruly peers.”

Discipline at the lodge was also a problem, he said.

“Female residents live with their boyfriends from outside in those small rooms. That in itself compromises the quality of our security,” Sebolao said, providing this paper with the room numbers occupied by such female students.

Sebolao acknowledged the students’ grievances but promised that there would be changes only if the NMDS could pay NMSB.

“We are aware of the fact that the students are not content with the accommodation conditions and we do acknowledge that drastic changes need to be made,” Sebolao said.

“But only if Manpower could pay what they owe us to speed up the process of developing the place.”

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