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UFS responds on the outcome of the court case in the alleged attack by Cobus Muller and Charl Blom on Gwebu
2014-09-09

The management of the University of the Free State (UFS) acknowledges the finding issued on 4 September 2014 by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that it was “unable to find any corroborating evidence to make a conclusive finding of racism and violation of human rights” in the Muzi Gwebu case.

The university management also takes cognisance of the ruling in the Bloemfontein Regional Court by Regional Magistrate Rasheed Matthews today (9 September 2014) that both Cobus Muller and Charl Blom are found not guilty on all the charges which included reckless driving, crimen injuria, attempted murder and assault (Muller), and a charge of assault (Blom). We note the Magistrate’s concerns about “inconsistencies in the evidence and exaggerations”, that the complainant “displayed hostility throughout the trial” and that he was “not a reliable witness and is prejudiced.” And therefore, in the words of the Magistrate to the defendants, “I’ve decided to give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Both Muller and Blom were suspended from all campuses of the UFS on 19 February 2014 based on the evidence available at the time of reckless driving, assault and other charges. This evidence was further borne out by an internal investigation into the incident of 17 February 2014 on the Bloemfontein Campus. In the light of the evidence available to us at the time, and the volatile situation on campus in the days following the attack, the UFS management believes that it was the correct decision to suspend the students, given the serious nature of the charges, and pending a decision of the courts.

In the light of both the SAHRC ruling as the Regional Court ruling, the university management has decided to take the following steps:

1.    The suspensions of both Muller and Blom from all campuses of the university are lifted with immediate effect.

2.    Muller may attend a forthcoming graduation ceremony during which the degree BSc Construction Management will be officially conferred upon him. He completed all the requirements for the degree in 2013, but was not allowed to attend the graduation ceremony of 11 April 2014 due to his suspension and the fact that the criminal charges were still pending.

3.    Blom may return to the university to complete his studies.

4.    The UFS is in discussion with the parents of one of the students and, if required, would also meet with legal counsel of the university, as well as those of students Muller and Blom to discuss any further steps given the outcome of the court case.

5.    In short, on grounds of the ruling by die SAHRC, as well as the Bloemfontein Regional Court, the university will not continue with its disciplinary action against Muller and Blom.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS said: “This has been a very difficult time for the university and I am pleased to record that throughout the crisis, the student body on the Bloemfontein Campus showed remarkable restraint and discipline, confirming also the broad, non-racial character of the peaceful protests that followed. Our student body has matured and our campus cultures are much more inclusive and transformed as a result of the quality and depth of student leadership over the past few years. The new Student Representative Council (SRC) is a splendid example of this – with the first black woman President (Mosa Leteane) and the first blind woman SRC student leader (Louzanne Coetzee).”

“I am pleased that the matter is now behind us and, again, we rest with the decisions of the Commission and the Courts as final,” he said.

Prof Jansen also apologised on behalf of the UFS to Cobus Muller and Charl Blom, their parents, and their families, for the disruption that the suspension brought in their lives and for the stress they had to bear during this difficult period. “For that, I am truly sorry,” he said.


Issued by: Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Brand Management)
Tel: +27 (0) 51 401 2584 | +27 (0) 83 645 2454
E-mail: news@ufs.ac.za

 

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