UFS: Private security moves on campus to monitor protests

The registration process for returning undergraduate students and first-years has been extended at the University of the Free State. Vice-chancellor Professor Francis Petersen said that the university recognises the financial difficulties that have affected students, specifically due to Covid-19 and unemployment. 

However, Petersen explained that the concession to allow students to register would only apply to those who have debt of less than R25 000. 

The university will arrange for payment plans to be developed as the academic year progresses.

“The historical debt has increased to R300-million, and [the university] cannot continuously provide concessions. These debts will only increase, and the university will be unable to write the debt off completely because of the risk and liabilities for which the university is responsible.”

For the past two weeks, students at universities nationwide have been protesting to be allowed to register even if they have historical debt. Last week during a stand-off between the police and students from the University of Witwatersrand, Mthokozisi Ntumba was killed by police. The South African Union of Students (SAUS) released a statement condemning the brutality and violence during protests in Braamfontein, where live ammunition was used against unarmed students.

A list of demands was issued by the SAUS, which includes funding and free registration for students for the 2021 year. The union has called for a national shutdown of all higher education institutions from Monday.

Following the call for national shutdown, Universities South Africa, a forum of the 26 universities, met on Monday to discuss funding issues.

Responding to the national shutdown and the university’s involvement, Petersen said the safety and the well-being of all staff and students is a priority.

Petersen indicated that the university supports students who protest while ensuring the stability of its campuses. 

He said there were currently protests underway at the Bloemfontein campus while the others remained undisrupted.

“There were blockages of students by the main gate, but students who were registered for face-to-face classes, and staff, were redirected to alternative entrances. We allow protests, but they tried to disrupt our face-to-face classes. Still, the protests are ongoing, but private security is on campus to control and monitor these protests to ensure it does not get out of hand.”   

Petersen indicated that employing private security allows the university more control than the South African Police Force’s involvement. The private security contractors are unarmed and will regulate and control the environment according to the university’s instructions.

He also called for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to be more financially sustainable for students. 

“Education is not an investment where a return must be ensured, but an expenditure, and that is how the national treasury must engage with the budget on higher education.”   

The vice-chancellor added that politicians must not exploit higher education to “ further political score” instead, this must be dealt with as a collective issue, and resources must be pooled to develop a sustainable financial model for students.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Aliyah Price
A University of Cape Town social science graduate, who is in the process of completing the ASRI Futures Leaders programme and an externship programme through the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Magashule snubs former presidents Mbeki and Motlanthe

Magashule fails to meet former presidents Mbeki and Motlanthe as he runs out of options

‘Suspicious’ tech company EOH must pay back millions

EOH allegedly inflated prices of Microsoft licences, which could have been bought by the defence department for a third of the cost

More top stories

JSC won’t axe Hlophe from selection panel

The commission has dismissed three requests not to proceed with interviews for candidates for the Western Cape high court

SIU targets 15 in master of high court

As the Special Investigating Unit starts pushing for criminal and disciplinary cases, officials in the master’s offices start revealing crucial evidence

Rhodes Memorial Fire: a week of devastation, loss and heartache

Students, alumni and staff share their memories and thoughts after blaze leaves a path of devastation at the UCT and its Jagger Reading Room

Cape fire devastation reinforces consequences of defence budget cuts

All the available resources from the private sector needed to be exhausted before the Air Force could be called in to assist in dousing in the flames

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…