Wits professors in “horrific” attack at home

Professors Horn

HOSPITALISED: Prof Anette Horn, left, and Prof Peter Horn, right, pictured at a year-end function in Johannesburg last year. The couple were attacked in their home on Wednesday morning and remain in hospital. Photo: Roz Groeneweg

Two senior professors in the School of Literature, Language and Media (SLLM) are in hospital following an attack at their home in Westdene on Wednesday morning.

World-renowned poet Prof Peter Horn and his wife, Prof Anette Horn, both of the Wits German department, are currently at Milpark hospital with severe injuries after being locked in their bathroom and stabbed with a screwdriver.

Peter Horn is being monitored closely in intensive care and will be moved to high care as soon as he is more stable.

“He has a pierced lung, but he is doing fine and didn’t need an operation,” according to Prof Libby Meintjes, head of SLLM.

Anette Horn though will require plastic surgery in the near future to repair the damage caused by “screw-driver stab wounds” on her face, neck and arms”, Meintjies told Wits Vuvuzela.

Meintjes described the attack as “horrific” and said the couple are traumatised by what has happened to them.

The attack took place just a few days after the couple’s home was burglarised in a separate incident. According to Meintjies, the couple suspect both incidents are linked.

The suspect is still at large but police are investigating and would not give comment to Wits Vuvuzela without the couple’s permission.

Mistaken overdose at David Webster

A Res student representative has accused the Wits counselling unit of failing “students in crisis” following another suicide attempt at David Webster Hall this week.

A David Webster Hall resident overdosed on antidepressant pills in what friends said was an attempted suicide on Sunday evening, August 26.

Hall coordinator Prof Tumai Murombo said he received an alarming message from one of the student’s friends.

The student was transported to Milpark Hospital by Campus Control within an hour, according to investigations manager, Michael Mahada.

“The information recorded in an Occurence Book shows that CB1 made an entry at 19h39 about it and they again made a cross reference at 20h31 to effect that the sick student had been transported to Milpark Hospital.”

Mahada said Campus Control does not have the qualifications or personnel to run an ambulance service, but will call an ambulance if asked to.

Chairperson of David Webster Hall, Godfrey Dlamini, said the student refused to be admitted.

Dlamini, said this was one of about five attempted suicides at David Webster this year. In some cases, the same students have tried to kill themselves more than once.

Dlamini and the hall coordinators have had to chase suicidal students across the car park, trying to calm them down.

“Career Counselling and Development Unit (CCDU) promised to address a tailor-made workshop for the David Webster students last semester but up to now have not delivered. As psychological experts in the university, the CCDU has failed students in crisis,” said Dlamini.

Murombo said the reasons for attempting suicide went beyond academic difficulties and involved social difficulties as well.

Murombo also said the CCDU’s approach of treating students on a voluntary basis was failing because it is impersonal and technical.

“Students don’t want to be treated like patients, they feel alienated. The current counselling system is too formal and technical.

The CCDU needs to initiate therapy that takes the form of a social conversation. It’s a more effective way of picking up student issues before they get out of hand,” he said.

In response to David Webster, Toinette Bradley, therapy team leader of the CCDU, said that David Webster should follow up their request for a therapy workshop before exams arrived.

Bradley said they had received the case of a mistaken overdose and were in the process of addressing it.

“We cannot force anybody to come in and see us but we do try to get their family and friends to convince them to seek treatment with us,” she said.


Co-written with Akinoluwa Oyedele

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 22nd edition, 31st August 2012.