CPUT Woodstock students want free Wi-Fi, appliances

2017-04-25 17:49
CPUT protest. (Jenni Evans, News24)

CPUT protest. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - A group of Cape Peninsula University of Technology students called for a review of the accommodation contract between South Point property group and the university on Tuesday in a fiery protest over a shortage of appliances, Wi-Fi, and other issues at their residences.

''We want Wi-Fi now!'' shouted a student leader, complaining that without proper internet connectivity they were unable to study effectively.

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology students say that currently, the Wi-Fi is either throttled or used up by the middle of the month and they have to walk to internet cafés at the risk of being mugged to get back online.

They also demanded extra washing machines, stoves, microwave ovens, free parking, and for visitors to be allowed in to the residence.

In the early hours of Tuesday, a guard's hut was set alight and a washing machine was taken to the courtyard to draw attention to their cause, while the residence's guards from Red Ants Security, the landlord's representatives, and police watched from a distance.

Private meeting

The gate was closed to the modernised buildings that form the New Market Junction, part of South Point's portfolio of old commercial buildings bought and revamped for hire as student accommodation, and for the newly graduated.

Inside the gates, students sang protest songs and a small group of student leaders peeled off to hold a private meeting down one of Woodstock's narrow side streets with the landlord's manager and the police.

On their return a student leader stood on a washing machine and presented a memorandum of demands.

They also complained that evictions are executed unfairly and without due process: In one case over the discovery of an empty beer bottle, and that when evicted they have to sleep outside and cannot get to their books.

Student safety was also on the agenda, with concerns raised that not enough is being done to investigate burglaries.

CPUT students' memorandum over res accommodation.(Jenni Evans, News24)

Meanwhile, the Public Order Policing arrived and started putting on their riot gear.

South Point's representative also got onto the washing machine in the middle of the protesting group and proposed what the company could do.

The students were told that management would urgently look into upgrading the Wi-Fi software, which could be behind the bandwidth being finished half way through the month.

Many promises

Everybody agreed to disperse and go back to classes, with some student leaders, building management and CPUT representatives set to meet again later on Tuesday to discuss issues further.

One of the students said he would only be satisfied when everything had been resolved, and would not get excited about possible progress because they had heard many promises before.

South Point regional marketing co-ordinator Wallace Katiyo explained to News24 later that CPUT has a ''head lease'' with South Point, in which beds are booked for students who needed accommodation.

The students register for the accommodation with CPUT and the students pay CPUT either through the National Students Financial Aid Scheme, or by their own means, and CPUT pays South Point.

''CPUT is our client, and the students are their clients. We just manage the students' residences,'' said South Point.

Students say it costs between R28 000 and R30 000 for the 10 months of the academic year.

Katiyo said the head lease arrangement arose from a student accommodation crisis across the country, not just in Cape Town, and the residences were kitted out according to minimum specifications set out by the Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande.

Each unit in the residences must have a certain number of appliances and level of facilities per number of students.

Rules

However, the refurbishment of the front block at the New Market Junction in Woodstock was only completed in 2016 to accommodate another 250 students, and facilities are still receiving all their equipment.

''I don't know how many microwaves there are, but I can tell you it is not one [as the students say],'' said Katiyo.

He added that the rules of the residences were not set by South Point, but by CPUT, and if there was any infraction, CPUT was informed, and dealt with it.

There were different levels of offences, and offences that spark evictions are related to crime, such as having drugs, or having a firearm on the premises.

He added that there was also an element of squatting at the beginning of every student year by students who had failed, so the rules are that friends can visit at certain times, but not stay overnight.

Comment from CPUT was not immediately available.

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Read more on:    cput  |  cape town  |  education  |  protests  |  university protests

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