UNISA main campus. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)
Pretoria - Unisa yesterday failed in its application in the high court, Pretoria, to hold officers of the Sunnyside police station in contempt of court for allegedly refusing to act against protesting students.

According to Unisa, the protest was threatening to disrupt the smooth running of the university.

Unisa said it was armed with an order issued at the beginning of the year, in terms of which protesting students were interdicted from making trouble and disrupting the running of Unisa.

The police were ordered to act against disruptive students.

But the police have said that Unisa management had to obtain a new order before they could act. Management, on the other hand, told the court the officers refused to do their work. It called for either imprisonment or the imposing of a fine on several of the officers, which include the station commander, the station commissioner and the captain who works under the command of these officials.

Unisa registrar Dr Faroon Goolam said in court papers that the university obtained an interim order in January against various students and student bodies following unrest on the different campuses at the time.

The order was confirmed in March this year. Subsequent to the order a group of students under the banner of various student political organisations in July this year marched in protest from the Sunnyside campus to the head office in Muckleneuk.

Goolam said the march was unlawful and should have been stopped by the police after the students became volatile when an executive tried to address them. He said they were contravening the court order, yet the police did nothing after Unisa security services phoned them for help.

A copy of the court order was handed to Captain Dan Mavimbela at the time, who discussed it with his station commander. He then said it could not be enforced and that Unisa should obtain a new court order.

Unisa's legal adviser told the police they acted in contravention of the court order. Despite this, the police insisted on a new order.

Goolam said the court order was clear and did not require interpretation.

In terms of the order the protesting students may not conduct their protest within 50m of Unisa entrances nor threaten the safety of other students and staff. If they did so, the police would be forced to step in.

Goolam said as trouble was brewing again, Unisa feared the police would do nothing if they were not forced to adhere to the earlier court order. “As matters stand, the Sunnyside campus is effectively closed by protesting students and entrances are blocked.Students who wish to register are unable to do so. Applicant is concerned about the risk of violence and possible damage to its property.”

He added that the decision by the police not to implement the court order and act against the protesting students placed Unisa at great risk of damage.

Goolam said the police were obliged to act to maintain order, even if there were no court order.

He said the outstanding exam results must be released soon and if there were disruptions, this could cause a further delay in releasing the results. The results must be released by August 10 to enable students to register for the second term.

“There is a propensity for violence The safety of our staff and property cannot be guaranteed in the present circumstances,” Goolam said.

Judge Brenda Neukircher said the application was bad in law and she dismissed it with costs.

Pretoria News