The South African Police Service has confirmed that student leader at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Benjamin Phehla has passed away after sustaining serious injuries during protests.
The SAPS denied that Phehla died as a result of police action, saying that he was one of seven students that were injured when a car smashed into a crowd of protesters between TUT’s north and south campuses.
A case of culpable homicide has been opened the SAPS told Jacaranda News.
According to a tribute posted on social media, Phehla was an outgoing member of the SRC of TUT Soshanguve Campus, and was rushed to hospital after being injured during protests on Thursday. He passed away on Friday morning.
Student protests across the country have become increasingly violent as students continue to clash with police on university campuses.
Wits SRC leader Shaeera Kalla is currently being treated in hospital after being shot as many as 10 times at close range with rubber bullets. According to Kalla, she was trying to negotiate with police to allow students to pass by without being met with violence when the police shot her in the back.
Meanwhile, a security guard in the Western Cape is reportedly in a serious condition after students dropped a rock on his head from an elevated position above him.
Students are protesting, calling for free education. The protests have been going on for about a month after negotiations between students and university leaders broke down and consensus could not be found.
Universities have tried to keep classes going, but have faced constant disruption from protesters, with several campuses being forced to close.
Failure to complete the academic year could lead to as many as 1 million matric students being prevented from attending university in 2017, and furthering their education.