Witsies over the edge

Wits, according to its branding slogan, “gives you the edge”. Some Witsies, however, have toppled over the edge and found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The now-infamous dreadlocked drug smuggler, Nolubabalo Nobanda, made headlines in December 2012 attempting to smuggle 1,5kg of cocaine into Thailand, by hiding the drug in her hair.

Nobanda was a Wits student although the university initially denied this. It later acknowledged Nobanda was registered in 2007, adding that confusion arose from Nobanda not re-registering the following year.

Nobanda was allegedly going to be paid R16 000 to smuggle the R2 million’s worth of drugs into Thailand. She was caught by customs officials at the Thai airport who noticed the white powder in her hair.

In recent years Wits itself has been the scene of the crime when frustration with staff gave former students a different edge.

In 2001, the stress of opening night proved too much for doctoral drama student Sikhumbuzo Yani who shot Prof Malcolm Purkey.

Yani allegedly drew the gun only to scare Purkey. But as Purkey fled, Yani shot him in the leg. Yani claimed the shot was fired after he was jostled by someone else.

Yani pleaded guilty in court to a charge of attempted murder and was sentenced to three years house arrest. He was also required to attend an anger management course.

In 2003 Glenda Lane, Wits’ assistant registrar of students at the time, fell foul of disgruntled student Thapelo Moselenyane.

Moselenyane held Lane hostage for six hours after he was not granted an emergency loan.

Lane was only released when Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who he had demanded to see, came to Wits and unlocked the office herself.

In court, Moselenyane admitted to everything but denied he was guilty. A panel of psychiatrists who evaluated Moselenyane found he did not know the difference between right and wrong and could thus not be held responsible for his actions.

The court ruled that Moselenyane was not guilty due to his mental problems and ordered that he should receive treatment from Sterkfontein hospital.