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Universities forced to pay an extra R2m per month

Universities are spending as much as R2m per month on security at campuses since the #FeesMustFall campaign took off in October last year, Gauteng university vice chancellors said on Monday.

Vice-chancellors in Gauteng held a press briefing on Monday calling for a smooth start to the academic year.

It was attended by vice-chancellors from Wits University, University of South Africa, University of Pretoria, Tshwane University of Technology, University of Johannesburg and Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University.

University of Johannesburg Vice-Chancellor Ihron Rensburg said they were spending a considerable amount of resources on security, which could be better utilised elsewhere.

"Some of us are spending R1.5m to R2m a month. It’s not sustainable, hence we appeal to the community to step forward and assist us in obviating this situation."

"We are spending resources in order to protect the lives of our students, staff and to protect facilities and heritage that has been built up in our institutions over decades. This is the reason for our call today for the public to respond and work with us to secure this academic year to be free from violence...," Rensburg said.

Rensburg said Gauteng universities could not withdraw security from campuses because this would leave them vulnerable to attacks.

"If we were simply to withdraw security and court orders, we would leave our campuses vulnerable to violence... This expense can stop tomorrow, but that is subject to protests becoming peaceful," he said.

According to Wits Vice-chancellor Adam Habib, "hiring a private security company gave the institution more operational control on campus, he said in an open letter to his colleagues on Monday."

The university would have needed a court order to get public order police onto the campus. "Once they were there, one could not limit their operations or influence their strategies," he said.

This was not the case with private security. The institution had even insisted that no guns be used in any of its campus operations, he said.

Several universities suspended registration after disruptions by students last week. Students were demanding free registration for all academically qualified students.

#FeesMustFall is a student led protest movement that began in mid-October 2015 in response to an increase in fees at South African universities.

Protests started at the Wits University and spread to the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University, before rapidly spreading to other universities across the country.

President Jacob Zuma eventually declared that there would be a no fee increases in 2016.


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