Protests against presence of security on campuses

S’thembile Cele


The continued presence of private security guards on campuses led to renewed tensions and some protest action this week.

Universities nationwide began to employ private security companies last year during the resurgence of student activism, which culminated in the #FeesMustFall movement.

The use of force by security companies has repeatedly come under the spotlight, with students calling for security firms to go, and university management maintaining that they were a necessary evil to protect facilities and other students.

At the University of Johannesburg, one student was arrested on Monday, allegedly for malicious damage to property. This followed protest action by students, who said they wanted private security guards to leave because they were costing the university millions.

Also on Monday, students from Stellenbosch University copied their counterparts at the University of Cape Town (UCT) when they erected a shack on campus.

“The shack was removed on the same day, but what it was, was a call for 150 black workers who were dismissed at the end of last year for protesting to be reinstated,” Gcobisa Yani told City Press.

“The shack was removed by private security. The great irony is that millions are spent on private security, yet we are told there is no money to insource workers now. What this says is that buildings are more important than people and that black lives do not matter.”

At UCT this week, students staged a demonstration called #DeathofDreams, where they placed black bags on the ground to symbolise black bodies. The demonstration came about after a judge ruled that the interim interdict – sought by the university against the creation of “Shackville” in February – be made final.

Five of the 16 respondents on the interdict are not allowed on campus without permission from vice-chancellor Max Price.

One of the five is Chumani Maxwele, who first threw faeces at a statue of Cecil John Rhodes, which was when the #RhodesMustFall movement began.

Internal disciplinary processes are still under way for most of those students as well. The group has also been ordered to pay the university’s legal costs.

Protesting students say this amount could be R250 000 or more, but this has not yet been confirmed.

At the Vaal University of Technology, students are accusing private security companies of working with criminals to steal their belongings. These allegations come after an incident of theft earlier in the week.

Chaos ensued in the early hours of Thursday morning, with police firing rubber bullets at students and at least one building was torched. Security has been an issue at the university since last year, when at least two students were found dead. Students have been calling for a new security company to replace the present one.

Academic programmes were suspended and students were asked to vacate the premises by 2pm on Thursday afternoon.

Source:  News 24

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