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Cape Town -
The University of the Western Cape (UWC) is applying to the Western Cape High Court for an order to restrain members of its student representative council (SRC) from “unlawful protest action”.
In court documents UWC vice-chancellor and rector Professor Brian O’ Connell said protest action, which started on March 6, “is currently disrupting all facets of campus life”.
All but one of the 13 respondents named in court documents are members of the SRC. The matter is expected to be heard on Monday.
The SRC has called for O’Connell’s resignation for a number of reasons, including that he was given an increase of between R350 000 and R400 000 last year and that a “very expensive” student residence, Kovacs, has 200 vacant beds.
Students who spoke to the Cape Argus differed on the events on campus. Some said they supported the SRC while others said they did not want lectures disrupted and needed to focus on their studies.
Nadine Adams, 22, a BComm general management student, said she was aware of the protests but was unsure of the main issues.
Andrea Lakey, a third-year politics student said: “I understand protests and where they come from, but I don’t think vulgarity or forcing others to join is the solution.”
Gcobisa Yani, 28, a final-year politics and industrial psychology student who sells hot dogs outside the student centre to pay her fees said: “The SRC is arguing a number of reasons for us. The main issue is that disadvantaged students are being sidelined. The Kovacs res is standing empty while there are students that need accommodation. I thought the point of building it was to meet the needs of the students.”
Kovacs resident and first-year applied geometry student Odwa Makaula, 18, said his single room cost R34 700 for the year. He had paid a deposit of R18 000. “People are crying about the money and I understand. It’s very expensive to stay there.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, O’ Connell confirmed that Kovacs, a public/private partnership, had 200 vacant beds.
Asked if in hindsight he thought the university should have entered the partnership, he said: “I don’t think so. But if it hadn’t been for the sudden rise in the cost of building it, it would have worked.”
He said there had been pressure from students for space and UWC lost about R9 million a year on its facilities. The university would not have been able to persuade the government to allow it to build more residences, he added.
SRC president Msingathi Kula said he was not aware that the university was seeking a court order.
He said the rector should resign.
Last week, university spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said UWC had written to government “to obtain assistance for securing financial support that would enable the reduction of accommodation fees at the Kovacs residence”.
A representative from Kovacs declined to comment.