SAFTU statement on wealth and poverty in South Africa
November 3, 2017
SAFTU condemns attempts to censor The President’s Keepers
November 7, 2017

SAFTU in solidarity with the CPUT students’ demand …

The Federation of South African Trade Unions reaffirms its total support for the demand for free, universal and decolonised education and for the students who are determined to continue this fight for not only themselves but for future generations of South Africans.

SAFTU also fully supports the call for the insourcing of all service providers on university campuses and the exclusion of private companies found to have obtained their contacts corruptly.

In particular SAFTU pledges its solidarity with students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) against the continued use of the paramilitary security company Vetus Schola.

The former acting vice-chancellor, John Volmink, stated in June that the university was appointing PwC to conduct an independent investigation into corruption allegations that had been made by a whistle-blower hotline. In a letter he wrote that:

“The allegations included, among others, unethical behaviour and irregular activities pertaining to CPUT’s procurement processes, approval procedures and the alleged failure to adhere to the CPUT procurement policy”. Investigators from PwC have already started contacting key witnesses.

The Mail & Guardian reports that PwC is looking into the procurement process concerning Vetus Schola, the authorisation of payments made to the company, the procurement of security equipment and bringing security staff in-house.

Students are demanding to know why the university is still using the services of a company that it was investigating for allegations of misconduct. Some who spoke anonymously to the M&G allege that a “corrupt” relationship exists between the security company and some university executives, which was the reason for the forensic investigation being instituted. The students alleged that protests at the institution are “an opportunity for some people to make a killing”.

Over 170 university staff members wrote an open letter to acting vice-chancellor Chris Nhlapo asking for Vetus Schola’s to be removed.

“We make this urgent call in a climate of fear,” they wrote, referring to “the militarisation” of the university. “A climate of terror has been created by Vetus Schola, traumatising both staff and students.” They allege that “staff have been witness to racial and economic profiling of students and the intimidation and harassment of female students by Vetus Schola…

“It was only a few months ago that independent peace monitors alerted CPUT management to the unprovoked violence of Vetus Schola against our students. This led to the immediate cancellation of their contract. However, we have now seen them return and occupy our campuses for over two months now. Why has this violent paramilitary force been allowed to return? We need to know.” [The current University management has not responded to this fundamental question.]

They also asked why Vetus Schola had been given the master keys to residences, searching them whenever they wanted, and said this had caused “terror” among students and claimed that recently a student who had forgotten his student card in his room had been denied entry by Vetus Schola.

“In his desperation … he attempted to jump over the barbed wire set up by Vetus Schola in an attempt to control access to the university. He was caught in the barbed wire, got cut and it took a while for him to be freed. It was concerning that the emphasis of Vetus Schola was to treat him as a criminal, wanting to detain him rather than ensure his wellbeing,” the university employees wrote. “He had to be rushed to hospital”.

“We stand at the brink of disaster. The only way to avoid tragedy from reoccurring is to immediately remove Vetus Schola [and] to demilitarise our campuses. There are capable, non-militarised security [firms] that could be brought in on an interim basis while the matter is resolved.”

On Monday 16th October, after management handed the master keys of the residences to Vetus Schola, they entered them at will, with attack dogs. They also forced their way into rooms of female students. This was an act of terror against the students and a violation of female students’ rights.

Vetus Schola security do not display name tags nor do they identify themselves when asked. This is a violation of regulations in the security sector.

Private security may not fire rubber bullets or any weapon on campus and should be charged with assault for the numerous times they discharged their weapons against protestors. Workers and students have the constitutional right to protest and this right is being undermined by the militarization of CPUT, UCT, UFS, Wits and other universities. A further question hangs over Vetus Schola in its lauding of apartheid assassination squad, Koevoet, in its promotional videos.

Yet despite all these serious allegations and the ongoing PwC investigation Vetus Schola is still operating at CPUT, where it is the only security company and still intimidating students.

On Friday 3 Nov 2017 three student leaders were arrested while sitting on a lawn. Further, the CPUT management has indicated that it will start disciplining hundreds of workers who have been protesting against militarization, for full insourcing on the basis of equal work for equal pay and the demands on free, decolonised education.

Meanwhile, four students – the CPUT Four’ – have been suspended and denounced as ‘ringleaders’ behind recent student unrest. This university has approached the high court for an interdict to stop the four students from disrupting its activities, damaging property or intimidating staff as violent protests escalated.

Three of the four have filed answering affidavits, distancing themselves from the protests and saying the allegations had had a negative impact on their reputations. They argue that the university was trying to find a scapegoat for its failure to deal with student concerns.

The court case is scheduled to be held on December 7.

We call for:

The immediate ceasing of all attacks on students and workers;

The immediate suspension of all executive members of CPUT who have been implicated in the irregular payment and procurement of Vetus Schola as well as its violence against students and workers on campus.

The Directors of the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) to immediately intervene to remove Vetus Schola from CPUT and to investigate all its transgressions;

The Hawks to act immediately against those involved in the fraudulent and irregular transactions at CPUT;

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education should act decisively against the CPUT management to ensure that the plunder of university resources stop and

An administration to be put in place that puts decolonised, demilitarised education at its centre.

SAFTU support the call of students and concerned staff and workers for an immediate University assembly, as the highest organ of democratic control at campus level.

The federation also supports efforts by mediators to bring the relevant parties around the table to find a just solution. All charges against protestors should be dropped. R10 million per month for a university that does not have funds, is irresponsible in the extreme.

SAFTU notes with concern the use by UCT of the paramilitary TSU, which has on its board, members who could be classed as mercenaries (claiming active duty in Iraq); cross border operations in the days of apartheid and who have sniper experience. This is a blatant trampling of the democratic values that millions fought so hard for. We call for the immediate removal of the TSU and police from all campuses.

We decry the wasteful expense of R32 million by the City of Cape Town on the so-called ‘shot-spotter’ technology. Our communities are being terrorised by gangs. Yet the police are camping out on our campuses. In the past period over 3000 gunshots were detected in our townships but only 9 arrests made, in part due to police dealing with unarmed student protests while leaving the masses at the mercy of the gangsters.

SAFTU also notes the ongoing protest actions taking place in other universities across Western Cape – at UCT, UWC and Stellenbosch – and urges its affiliated unions to rally behind the students’ protests in favour of free education, the end of corruption and the insourcing of all jobs on the campuses.

Down with the militarization of universities!
De-criminalization protest!
Immediate lifting of suspensions of whistle-blowers!
Drop all charges against all students and workers!