Two suspects have been arrested following at least three cases of students being abducted near campus

Rhodes University has warned students to be vigilant after three students were abducted close to the campus in Grahamstown in the last few weeks.

Captain Mzwandile Maleki from the South African Police Services (SAPS) in Grahamstown told Wits Vuvuzela that the students were abducted at knife point. He added that at least two of the students were forced to contact their parents for ransom money.

“In one case the suspect requested R500 ransom money and in the second one they requested R200,” Maleki said.

According to Rhodes University Communications Manager Veliswa Mhlope none of the victims were physically harmed.

“Two of the victims were drugged and are receiving medical care. All have been offered counselling,” she said.

Maleki said that at this point it is believed that the crimes were random and not linked to any organised crime syndicate.

“We’ve only had these cases this year,” he said. “In the past we haven’t had such cases where suspects demanded ransom. We’ve previously only dealt with robberies where students had their cellphones and wallets taken at knife point.”

In a statement released on Friday, April 13, Rhodes University identified the suspects as “two coloured males” which was met by controversy on social media with some saying this was racial stereotyping.

Rhodes SRC President Nhlakanipho Mahlangu says, “I was against the typecasting in [that] email, even though I do understand it was an emergency and there was a need to get that information out quickly.”

Mahlangu added that in her time as a Rhodes student she had never heard of kidnappings before the current spate.

“But also, just because we haven’t heard of it happening doesn’t mean it hasn’t been happening. I think the university is more cautious now about safety issues, especially following the [2016] rape culture protests,” said the SRC president.

Two male suspects were arrested following investigative work between SAPS and the Rhodes University Campus Protection Unit. The suspects were charged with robbery with aggravating circumstances.They made their first appearance at the Grahamstown Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, April 19 but were not asked to plead.

After appearing in court again on Tuesday, April 24, the suspects abandoned their bail application and will remain in custody until their next court appearance on May 22.

Rhodes University has urged students to take precautions when walking around Grahamstown. “Any and all suspicious activities should be reported to the Campus Protection Unit and the police as soon as possible,” read the statement.

FEATURED IMAGE: Students have been abducted near the Rhodes University campus in Grahamstown.
Photo: Provided