Statement by the Society of Jesus on the shooting of Fr Graham Pugin, S.J., and the Higher Education Crisis


Fr Graham Pugin S.J., who was shot in the face by a rubber bullet at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, has received medical treatment and is recovering. The Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the order of priests to which Fr Graham belongs, and Fr Graham himself, are grateful for the concern that has been shown after the incident. We have received many prayers, well wishes and offers for assistance from across society. We have also received support from the Jesuit General Congregation meeting in Rome at present and the Vatican Ambassador to South Africa, His Excellency Archbishop Peter Wells.

Fr Graham has been one of the facilitators, along with other clergy and former student leaders, working towards an agreement between the students, management and other stakeholders at the University of the Witwatersrand. All the facilitators have worked hard to create an atmosphere of trust. Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein has served as a safe and sacred space for negotiations, and we hope that it will continue to do so.

Unfortunately, the negotiation process has been stalled and we are concerned by the sense of distrust between all the role players. The high security presence and clashes between police and students have also heightened tensions, making negotiations, at this stage, much more difficult. The shooting of Fr Graham has shocked and distressed many people, including students. He, along with the Society of Jesus, remain hopeful that a solution can be achieved.

We believe there needs to be a national mediation effort to resolve the fees issue and stabilise the situation on campuses. We note the establishment of a national government task team on the fees crisis but believe that this alone will not deal with the problem. We believe there needs to be a concerted effort, involving all sectors of society, to deal with the historical context and systemic problems which make higher education inaccessible and unaffordable for millions of poor South Africans.

We stand ready to participate in this mediation effort so that a national solution can be found to the crisis in the higher education sector. We are concerned by the levels of violence and urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint so that an atmosphere conducive to negotiations may return.

We appeal to all involved to pledge themselves to restore peace on and around our campuses.


Issued by Fr David Rowan SJ

Regional Superior of the Jesuits in South Africa

11 October 2016



For further information contact:

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

+27 82 737 2054