Fort Hare accuses rogue staff of trying to 'destabilise' Alice campus

2017-10-04 13:55
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(File)

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East London – The University of Fort Hare has accused staff members, intent on destabilising the Alice campus, of being the organising force behind a small group of students who have been running amok on campus grounds over the past two weeks.

Communications manager Khotso Moabi said the university had been engaging with the Student Representative Council (SRC) over a number of issues and that considerable ground had been covered in resolving their concerns.

"It is therefore extremely shocking to have seen the direction the student protest has taken and the manner in which the university has been engulfed, even beyond the agreements reached with student representatives," he said.

"Management is convinced that there are sinister plans by a small group of students that have been unearthed, and have had the aid of being backed by some staff members with the aim of destabilising the Alice campus," he said.

Moabi said the recent protests had been of a desperate nature, resorting to criminal acts in a bid to achieve their objectives.

"The total cost of damage to university property, at this moment, stands at an estimated sum in excess of R5m, while the external service providers are still to give us a final determination of the value of the damage that they have sustained," he said.

Read more: University of Fort Hare protests result in R1.9m rampage at bookstore

"Management, in consultation with the university council, will institute an investigation to bring the perpetrators to book. These acts appear well coordinated and orchestrated," he said.

Alice campus was never closed

Moabi said the Alice campus had never been closed during the protests, saying the statement that was circulated in the name of the Vice Chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu was in fact fake.

He said the university had never issued such a statement.

"In this regard, the university condemns this narrative in the strongest terms and states for a fact that the university is continuing with its official business as expected," he said.

Moabi said the university continued to assess conditions on campus and was of the view that there was no need to shut it down.

"We intend to finish and save the academic year for all the multitudes of students who are not part of this disruption," he said.

Moabi said, as a precautionary measure, security on campus had been heightened.

Search warrants being obtained

Moabi said the university management was in the process of securing an interdict and search warrants against the perpetrators.

"This will enable the security and police services to search for all stolen equipment, and additional evidence on other criminal actions," he said.

Moabi said two students had already been arrested in connection with the staff centre arson and the power outage incidents.

"Further arrests will be made soon, once the evidence has been presented to the law enforcement agencies," he said.

Moabi said the university had a catch-up plan for the East London campus, which included lecturing after hours and during weekends. 

"In the Alice campus, we do not have much of a problem. In this regard, the university will explore the matter further and will ensure that teaching and learning continues," he said.

'Issues have been addressed'

Moabi said the main complaints of the students - relating to fee waivers, non-residence allowance payments, periodic water outages on the Alice campus, electricity power cuts, Wi-Fi connectivity downtime, and Jabavu Residence challenges - had been addressed at length at a meeting on September 26.

"When management left the meeting, we were under the impression that issues were appropriately addressed to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

"However, in the evening of the same Tuesday, it became clear that we were given a false impression, as some members of the very same SRC and student body went on a rampage, destroying university property, burning items on the streets and vandalising buildings," he said.

Moabi said management was extremely disappointed with the actions of the students over the past 10 days.

"Notwithstanding the few outstanding mid-term issues whose timelines were agreed with the SRC, the rest of the other issues have been addressed, and as such the protest action is not warranted," he said.

"Once again, management wishes to take this opportunity to apologise to all students, staff and members of the public for the inconvenience caused by recent events."

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