The #FeesMustFall protest seems to be taking a much-dreaded turn as the pastor of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church next to Wits University was shot in the face.
Reports from the M&G says the Catholic pastor, Father Graham Pugin was shot at close range by a police service officer meant to wade protesting students off school premises.
The shooting sparked off more violence in Bloemfontein with at least 20 people injured and 15 arrested. But the pastor called for calm amid the outrage.
#FeesMustFall students were reportedly throwing rocks at the police who in turn fired rubber bullets, tear-gas and stun grenades. This continued throughout Braamfontein on Monday and this lead to students seeking refuge in the church and the police attempting to drive a Nyala into the yard to arrest them.
The police shot father Pugin from the Nyala and the rubber bullet struck his mouth.
Pugin started to bleed and turned his back on the police, who continued firing when he was embraced by another church employee. As the barrage of bullets ended, Pugin was led into his office to receive treatment.
“He wants you to know he’s receiving trauma care. He kindly asked that you do not react in violence because of him. This church has always been a neutral and safe space and I am horrified,” said Matthew Charlesworth, a fellow priest at Holy Trinity who relayed the message to students.
“I’ve always supported the students when they get shot. Our church has a clinic that treats the injured and we decided to open the gates for them because police were shooting them all over Braamfontein,” he added.
Report from Mail and Guardian also has it that Several other students looked on in shock as blood poured out of Pugin’s mouth and down his church robes.
“They shot him right in front of me with his hands up. He was so peaceful,” said a 20-year-old Wits student with tears in her eyes, who did not want to be named.
“When they shot at pastor, my heart broke. I got cross because pastor gives me food and everything. If pastor dies, I’d rather die with him … I wasn’t fighting but I put down my trolley and pick up the stones because when you shoot pastor, I must fight,” he added.
A while after the pastor was rushed to the hospital, the protesting students were gathered for a meeting inside the church and were addressed by Charlesworth.
“You are welcome here. But please, I appeal to your leaders, when you lead, you have to be very careful that you do not incite people to violence unnecessarily. The entire country is watching and is waiting to see how we react in this church. My prayer is that you will behave better than they expect of you,” he said.
#FeesMustFall student leader Shaeera Kalla told the students that the police’s violent response on church officials has struck a nerve.