Student activist, Vusi Mahlangu, who was allegedly the victim of a kidnapping, is due to appear in the Mthatha Magistrate’s court today on charges of perjury and defeating the ends of justice.
Last week Mahlangu, claimed to have been kidnapped, beaten and held in a dark room and resulted in an outpouring of support on social media. Mahlangu had been organising outsourced workers at Walter Sisulu University at the time.
Mahlangu was arrested on Tuesday after meeting with the Hawks at their East London offices with two lawyers, according to the Daily Dispatch which reported that looked physically well. During the consultation, Mahlangu only spoke when objecting to the media presence. This sentiment was reciprocated by his lawyers, Luleka Flatela and Maswazi Bayete, who called the media presence an “ambush”.
Mahlangu is currently being detained for providing an inconclusive version of events and contradicting witness statements surrounding his mysterious disappearance.
Equal Education (EE), an education rights organisation, received social media requests last week asking for urgent assistance to find Mahlangu who had been reported missing. Since then, EE have been told by people involved in finding Mahlangu that there may have been dishonesty with regards to the kidnapping claims.
“EE, like everyone else, was lead to believe that #VusiMahlangu was abducted. We rallied in support. But the kidnapping was a fabrication,” the organisation said on its Twitter account.
While the exact details are unclear, EE said the claims of kidnapping “compromises organisations who extend credibility or resources in an effort to find Vusi.”
This would make it harder to rally support in future for others who find themselves in serious danger, especially “at a time when activists, including our own, face VERY REAL harassment and threats, such fakery and crying wolf is irresponsible and reckless,” said EE.
EE said there are activists who have indeed been harassed and intimidated by “thugs and people with ties to the state” such as Wild Coast mining activist Sikhosiphi “Bakooza” Rhadebe who was recently killed after his name reportedly appeared on a “hit list”.
The EE said it still sympathises with Vusi, who “must be going through a lot, but we urge him to disclose everything he can so that people can help him through this in good conscience.”