Universities inconsistent during Fees Must Fall protests - SAPS

2017-06-20 19:24
Students singing ahead of Fees march to Union Buildings. (Lerato Sejake, News24)

Students singing ahead of Fees march to Union Buildings. (Lerato Sejake, News24)

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Cape Town - Deputy police commissioner Lieutenant-General Fannie Masemola says inconsistent university executives were one of the challenges they faced when policing student unrest at various universities in 2016.

A South African Police Service (SAPS) delegation led by Masemola told a joint Parliament committee meeting on police involvement on campuses that some universities had tried to have it both ways during the protests.

"It was an enormous task, because it was all over the country. We had our hands full," he told MPs from the police and higher education committees on Tuesday.

"Some of the institutions, especially when it came to access control, you'd find students from other universities running across the country.

"If they [universities] had effective access control, how are students getting themselves to other universities? Those were some of the challenges we faced.

"Of course, the management of universities were not also sure. In certain instances, they [supported] the students. In others, they would not require the police to be on the premises.

"But when something goes wrong on the university, they want you to be there. But [otherwise], they would tell you to wait outside to be called, but by then it's too late, and you would get blamed again."

READ: Criminals have infiltrated student protests - police

Court orders, criminal investigations

Some of the challenges faced by the police included insufficient access to campuses, and no uniform approach to policing by the various institutions, the delegation presented.

"SAPS were therefore employed differently from one institution to the next," Brigadier F Ally said.

They also had delays in obtaining court orders, and struggled in some instances to access management.

Co-operation with the SAPS was also an issue for both the student body and some institutions.

Ally said some institutions tried to "distance themselves" from criminal investigations, which led to the withdrawal of many cases.

Higher education committee chairperson Connie September said it was important that Parliament also hear from students to get the other side of the story.

Going forward, police said total commitment, dedication and support from all departments was required, as well as better communication.

A joint first aid plan compiled by the SAPS, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Wits Medical School and the Red Cross also had to be adopted at all institutions in the country.

Private security

PSIRA's acting deputy director for law enforcement, Stefan Badenhorst, said some of the private security officers were not properly trained and equipped for what they had to do during the Fees Must Fall protests.

Furthermore, some of the companies employed were not registered with PSIRA and there were also some whose officers did not wear badges or uniforms that identified them as belonging to a specific company.

PSIRA opened 24 cases against private security companies which were in different stages of completion, and where universities employed unregistered security companies, they had been asked to cancel the contracts.

Badenhorst said compliance from universities was very high.

September, though, said she was not satisfied that a lot had been done.

"There is much more that needs to be done in this area," she said.

Read more on:    parliament  |  police  |  cape town  |  university fees  |  university protests

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