Students and visitors at the final beer garden of the Wits Orientation Week were unexpectedly evacuated from the event yesterday evening after a stampede at the entrance.
Members of the City of Johannesburg Emergency Management Service (EMS): Events were forced to intervene and advise Wits campus control to shut down the event after a stampede occurred outside the venue on the Library Lawns.
EMS safety officer Rendani Mukondeleli told Wits Vuvuzela the event was oversubscribed and became “risky” with 5000 more people in attendance than the 3000 approved by JMS.
“There was a push at the entrance and that push was affecting people inside and we then declared the event unsafe due to a number of risks,” said Mukondeleli. He said the stampede started after people waiting to enter realised the armbands needed to access the event were finished.
“That was when we switched off the music and closed down the bars because if you allow students to consume more beer they then refuse to go anywhere. So we then opened all gates to evacuate students,” added Mukondeleli.
Amogelang Mangayi, deputy secretary of the SRC (Students Representative Council) which organised the beer garden, said that the overcrowding led to frustration and resulted in the stampede.
“The lines were backed up so far past Umthombo [Building] and that created frustration with the crowd. During that frustration, a panic ensued and people started to push to get in and at that moment in time we made an executive decision and decided to close down all entrances and then start to calm the crowd down. That didn’t help and so people started pushing through the barriers and people got hurt”, said Mangayi.
Disappointment and anger
There were no serious injuries reported apart from three minor injuries, including “a bee sting, alcohol vomiting and a panic attack”, explained Lamese Abrahams, head of Wits SDLU (Student Development and Leadership Unit).
Visitors who had already paid for their tickets expressed their disappointment and frustration at the closure of the beer garden. Second year Biological Science Lamangwe Vezi said: “I feel like I wasted R10 because I got inside and then all of a sudden there was a stampede, no more music and then we’re all going out. They should have just cancelled it or found a bigger venue in the first place.”
Tebogo Theko who studies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) said: “This wasn’t really nice hey. It was so ratchet. I got in here, bought a ticket and then all of a sudden it was packed. Last year was better. This year it was just chaotic. We should have gone to Braam.”
Precious Mahlangu, third year Geology, could only witness the stampede from outside as she could not get in. “I only managed to go in when they had already opened the gates for people to go out. It was really useless going in because the music was already off”.
In light of the incident Mangayi says security at tonight’s Freshers’ Bash will be much tighter and more “diligent”. “There will be separate entry points for pre-sold tickets and for those who want to buy tickets.”