Cape Peninsula University of Technology's Cape Town campus has been surrounded by barbed wire. Photo: Henk Kruger / ANA

CApe Town - The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) had spent R30 million in only three months on private security, said its acting vice-chancellor, Chris Nhlapo.

This was confirmed by spokesperson Lauren Kansley.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) had spent R24.28m in two years, said deputy vice-chancellor of transformation, Loretta Feris, of which R10m was paid by insurance.

This as students and staff decry an increasing “militarisation” of university campuses and the suppression of legitimate student protest.

Nhlapo said: “We are not really militarising campus - we are providing security under our own guidance.

“In 2015 and 2016 damages to the university were about R50m, and this year we are still tallying the numbers because we still have sporadic incidents.

“It is going to have a major impact on our budget because we will have to pay for something we already had.”

Students and staff at CPUT and UCT have reacted with shock following the disclosure of the amounts.

A member of staff for social justice at UCT, Wendy Burger, said: “How can it be that we are in exactly the same position as last year; have we learnt nothing? Militarising campus will not solve our problems, only exacerbate them.

“This is evident at CPUT and UFS (University of the Free State), and from last year at UCT - the militarised response and criminalising our students is aimed at addressing a perceived problem rather than looking at the root cause.

“The R24m that UCT spent on private security over the last two years is scandalous in a supposed climate of ‘austerity’.

“Why can millions always be found for executive bonuses or security, but student fees and support services like mental health and wellness are not prioritised?

“There has been an epidemic of student suicides at UCT. Shouldn’t saving our students’ lives be our top priority?

“Frankly there is exhaustion among students and staff, amplified by the blatant disregard being shown by the government to deal with this situation. We have to take up the challenge to solve some of these issues, otherwise we will be here again next year.

“If members of the higher education communities could come together and work out how to address the fees issues together, then we may be able to also work out other issues. This is urgent, the lives and futures of our young people are at stake.”

UCT has suspended all academic activities and the Jammie Shuttle services for today, following a week of student protests demanding fees not be hiked, clearance of the current year’s financial debt including next year’s registration fee, an immediate release of the Fees Commission report, an inquiry into the deaths of students over the last few years, a financial report about private security on the institution’s campus, as well as the residence housing intake for next year. 

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the university was seeking an urgent interdict in the Western Cape High Court against unlawful protest on campus since Tuesday.

“UCT reiterates that the deployment of private security on campus is not a decision that the executive takes lightly. This is always the last resort in order to protect high-risk buildings during times of disruptive protest action,” Moholola said.

The president of UCT’s Convocation, Lorna Houston, had asked that the university management disclose its contracts for private security, which they had not done yet.

“I am quite shocked by this, especially in times of austerity. To use force as a way to find solutions will not work.”

A CPUT student leader, who asked to speak anonymously for fear of reprisal, said: “How is property being damaged if the Vetus Schola private security company is paid R30m?

“This is a problem at the top, and it is impacting on students and staff at the bottom.”

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Cape Times