04 October 2021 | Story Nonsindiso Qwabe | Photo Supplied
Executive Director of Student Affairs, Mr Temba Hlasho, pays tribute to Sigcino Zimba, Thabani Manqele, and Wonder Dlamini.

The unexpected death of three University of the Free State students has been described as the loss of three young minds who represented the hope and aspiration of their families and communities.

These words reverberated throughout the sombre, yet celebratory combined service held in memory of the three University of the Free State students who passed away in two separate incidents in Phuthaditjhaba and on the Bloemfontein Campus in September.

The hybrid memorial service took place on Thursday 30 September, with all the speakers describing the loss of the young lives as a loss to humanity, as the world now being void of three bright young minds who wanted to change their own lives, as well as the lives of their families and communities.

Sigcino Zimba and Thabani Manqele lost their lives after a horrific shooting incident that took place at their off-campus residence in Phuthaditjhaba. Zimba died at the scene of the crime on Wednesday, 22 September 2021. Manqele passed away in hospital the following day.

On the Bloemfontein Campus, Wonder Dlamini, a resident of the Abraham Fischer residence, also passed away on 22 September. 

The memorial service – a celebration of life – remembered the young students as committed and determined young men who wanted to bring change to their lives and those of their families. Speaker after speaker described the passing of the students as a shock that has left the entire institution reeling.

Dr Molapo Qhobela, Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Strategic Partnerships and Societal Impact, said the three showed great promise. “The academic transcripts of Zimba and Manqele bear testimony to their determination. The young men displayed commitment to their education, despite unorthodox conditions imposed by COVID-19. Wonder was on his way to becoming an engineer.”

Several speakers shared messages of support to the families of the deceased.

Mr Temba Hlasho, Executive Director: Student Affairs, said the lives of the three students were cut short in the prime of their lives. “The complexities of our unequal societies tell us that our students at university are here to take their families out of poverty. So, if a young man’s life is taken away from us, we are losing future leaders. As educators and student affairs practitioners, our responsibility and role are to protect students, and to make sure that students are studying in a conducive environment. But our country’s crime rate fails us.”

His sentiments were echoed by Prof Pearl Sithole, Vice-Principal: Academic and Research on the Qwaqwa Campus, who said South Africa was too silent about being the violence capital of the world. “As a campus, we did not expect to be losing two students at this time in the manner that we’ve lost them. Institutions are working so hard to educate students, and then members of the South African community take a gun and remove any shred of integrity that we were trying to build. It is unacceptable that someone could use a gun as doom.  Maybe we are too quiet about things happening in South Africa. You cannot be the capital of violence in the world and say nothing in reflection on that status.”

Dlamini was laid to rest in Mpumalanga, and Zimba and Manqele in KwaZulu-Natal.

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