Two men facing charges in connection with the drug-linked alleged kidnapping of Rhodes University students appeared in the Grahamstown Magistrate’s Court briefly this morning. The men, who are charged with robbery with aggravating circumstances, appeared for a bail hearing. Both abandoned their bail applications and remain in custody until their next appearance, postponed to 22 May for further investigation.
Police last week revealed alarming details of the modus operandi of the drug-related alleged kidnappings. “Since February 2018 three incidents have been reported to SAPS Grahamstown. One in February and two now In April,” spokesperson Captain Mali Govender told Grocott’s Mail. “In all the incidents, male students were stopped in New Street or Pepper Grove Mall by two… males who offered to sell them drugs.
“The men would, once their victims refused to buy drugs, kidnap them at knife point and take them to a house in the location. They were held there until they made calls for money to friends or family.
“Once the money was available they would be taken back to town where the money would be withdrawn from an ATM. After that the victims were released,” Govender said.
On Friday 13 April, Rhodes University Campus Protection Unit issued a warning to students and staff about these incidents, urging students to be vigilant in town and around campus.
Police spokesperson Captain Mali Govender confirmed to Grocott’s Mail that two men had been in custody since their arrest on Friday 13 April and made a brief appearance on Monday 16 April. Today was their third appearance.
Rhodes Director of Communications, Luzuko Jacobs, last week said the institution was taking the matter extremely seriously.
“This year, until the end of the first quarter, has been relatively quiet,” Jacobs told Grocott’s Mail in an interview Wednesday 18 April. “So we really are taken aback at this.
“Our co-operation with the police is spearheaded at the highest level within the institution, to make sure the police respond to situations like this. We provide all the necessary support,” Jacobs said.
An earlier statement by Rhodes Communications confirmed that two students had been drugged and were receiving medical attention, but that no other physical harm had been inflicted on them in any of the incidents.
“Currently the students… are undergoing counselling and any other support that they require from the University,” Jacobs told Grocott’s Mail.
“We take this extremely seriously,” Jacobs stated. “As a university, we cannot have a situation where our students are intimidated and cannot express themselves socially and academically. That is detrimental to the conducive learning environment that we are reputed for in the small, relatively peaceful city of Grahamstown, and… Rhodes University.”
Asked what the institution was doing to ensure students’ safety, Jacobs said, “Like any other South African (or world) university, our responsibility starts when we receive our students to campus.
“We provide information about the avenues available to students if they find themselves victims of crime… We reiterate the message that… we have to exercise vigilance all the time and assist the authorities to ensure we… minimise opportunities for crime.
He said Rhodes University’s security deployment was informed by reports about flashpoints, on and off campus and ensured a quick response to incidents.
“Our campus is not cut off from the town so we have security arrangements for students walking into town,” Jacobs said.
He added that security structures and operations on campus were under ongoing review.