The worker who died after inhaling fumes from fire extinguishers released by student protesters at the University of the Witwatersrand has been given a name.
He is Celumusa Ntuli‚ 39‚ from Soweto.
“It was with great sadness that the University learnt about the passing of Mr Celumusa Ntuli‚” the university management said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Mr Ntuli was a cleaner on the Wits Braamfontein campus and passed away last week.”
Describing the circumstances‚ the university said: “Mr Ntuli (39)‚ from Soweto‚ was cleaning the Jubilee Hall of Residence last Tuesday‚ when protesters entered and released fire extinguishers. He fell ill shortly thereafter and was attended to by a nurse from the Wits Campus Health and Wellness Centre. She advised that Mr Ntuli should be rushed to hospital without delay.
“Mr Ntuli was taken to Milpark Hospital where he was treated for three days and discharged. He went home but then developed complications. His family tried to get him back to the hospital but he passed away while being transported.”
The university cautioned that the cause of death is still to be determined.
“The University’s Campus Control‚ together with Mr Ntuli’s employer‚ are conducting investigations into the incident.”
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande publicly reprimanded Wits management earlier on Tuesday for not alerting him to the worker’s death.
“The university should have reported this matter immediately so that a proper investigation can take place‚” he said.
Nzimande said his department has directed the university to conduct a formal investigation and submit a report to establish what exactly happened. “The report should also explain why the university took so long to report the matter and announce it to the university community and the public.”
The South African Police Service (SAPS) should also be given the space to conduct an investigation‚ Nzimande said.
The university and minister extended their condolences to Ntuli’s family.
A group of students at Wits yesterday held a minute’s silence and bowed their heads in mourning on hearing of the death.
The Wits SRC said afterwards that a delegation of students and academics would visit the family of the worker. They committed themselves “to reflecting on protest methods used to ensure the safety of the university community”.