Cape Town - Parliament has expressed concern over the threats made to vice-chancellors and personnel as well as related safety and security at institutions of higher learning.
Higher Education portfolio committee chairperson, Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, said they noted that at every institution they visited, they learned about groups “demanding from the institution’s resources”.
“As a sector we can’t normalize that behaviour,” Mkhatshwa said.
Mkhatshwa was speaking as the portfolio met the Department of Higher Education and Training on Friday.
Mkhatshwa said that during their oversight visits, they found that principals or vice-chancellors at Durban University of Technology, Mangosuthu University Technical Vocational and Training (TVET), and Umfolozi TVET were provided with security guards.
In January University of the University of Fort Hare vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu’s bodyguard, Mboneli Vesele was shot dead in what was believed to be a hit on Buhlungu.
“That is not healthy. That is not normal. The safety of their lives as leaders of institutions and as members of our community is highly concerning.”
Higher Education Deputy Minister, Buti Manamela, said they were concerned with some of the incidents that have occurred recently on campuses.
“The question of safety on our campuses has somewhat been taken for granted because the risk to security and safety of students and of staff and stakeholders has not been as high as it should be recently.
“The triggers of security risk include a whole range of matters,” Manamela said.
In his briefing to the committee, director-general Nkosinathi Sishi said the department conducted a study in 2022 on the state of security at universities.
The study showed that the cost of bodyguards at Durban University of Technology stood at R1million.
At the University of Fort Hare the figure stood at R25m.
Sishi noted that University of Zululand provided the most bodyguards or private security, compared to any other institution in the country, followed by the University of Johannesburg and UCT, the University of Free State and Durban University of Technology.
He said the investment in security showed that a huge amount of money was spent on security and sooner or later the institutions would look like prisons.
He told the MPs that threats were made to vice-chancellors and principals of universities and TVET colleges via cell phone, email and tip-offs.
The department’s Sam Zungu said KwaZulu-Natal alone has the majority of college principals who have bodyguards.
“It is one of the regions threatened by Amadelakufa (Business Forum).
This has a ripple effect. “False Bay college has got two major projects that came to a standstill for more than six months.
“There is no construction because people demand 30% (of procurement).
“It does require another intervention at another level besides institutions providing security support to our personnel.
“It requires much more intervention at the highest level,” Zungu said.
Mkhatshwa said it was unfortunate that there were institutions that did not participate in the study commissioned by the department.
“We should request every institution to submit to us the state of security at the institutions.”
She also said that there should be an annual audit of the sector at higher institutions of learning and interventions put in place to arrest the risk.