Johannesburg - When I showed up with a photographer to report on the disciplinary hearing, I was almost immediately escorted off campus by University of Johannesburg (UJ) bouncers.
After receiving information from a concerned activist organisation that the hearing would take place on Wednesday morning, I asked one of the professors, who said he would be testifying if the media could attend.
He said he thought we should be allowed in and he could make the case for it, so we decided to try. I felt it was important to be at the hearing to avoid the he-said-she-said that plagues reporting on crucial events that take place behind closed doors.
When we arrived at the campus gate, a Fidelity security guard inspected our car’s boot. He instructed me to get out, walk through the gate and wait for the photographer to drive through as part of their screening. We found the building for the hearing and took a lift to the third floor.
More Fidelity guards than comfortably fit in the narrow corridor met us as the elevator doors opened.
They stopped us as we walked down the hall. After consulting with management, they told us that we had to leave the campus.
Two of the bouncers escorted us to our car and then to the gate. They were so muscular that they took up almost the entire lift when we got inside. Their black shirts seemed specially cut to make clear just how much power they had in their arms.
“They are disciplining those who were in front,” one of them said. As we left, another Fidelity guard searched a woman’s bag at the gate.
Tracey Lomax, the lawyer for the suspended students, told me she had also been intimidated by bouncers assigned to escort her. “Both times the UJ attorney knew I was coming, but they stick bouncers on me,” she said. “(Vice-chancellor Professor Ihron) Rensburg learnt from apartheid, just all the wrong things,” she added.