UCT commits to “insourcing” - and other reports from the #FeesMustFall protests

| GroundUp staff
Wits Campus Bookstore was burnt last night. Reporters were intimidated at the university this morning, and lectures were disrupted. Photo by Juliette Garms.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has agreed, in principle, to employ its workers directly, and charges were dropped against 23 protesters. But at Wits, students and reporters were intimidated by protesters. Here are reports of today’s protest activities from Cape Town, East London and Johannesburg.

Vice chancellor Max Price announced this morning that UCT was committed to “the principle of insourcing”.

The university has yet to finalise the “modalities, framework and timeframes” of the move from outsourcing to insourcing but says that this will “be agreed upon by all parties involved”.

Outsourced workers are those who work at the university but are in the employ of companies with whom UCT has contracts. Maintenance and security staff at UCT are outsourced. “Insourced” workers would be employed directly by the university.

Price said that the university executive with the support of the council came to the decision last night. “We are aware that insourcing will incur significant costs,” said Price in the statement. Despite this he said that the university is committed to “finding the money somehow”.

“Insourcing these services will have significant cost implications, especially coming on top of the reduction in revenues that the 0% fee increase will mean. A concerted effort will have to be mounted to convince the state to make available additional funding, and we will participate fully in the ministerial commission that will investigate outsourcing on university campuses over the next six months,” said Price.

He also said that university believes they have “done the most to protect outsourced workers, not only amongst the universities of the country but arguably amongst all companies that outsource.”

WynbergCourt-20151028-AshleighFurlong-20151028.jpgCrowd outside Wynberg Magistrates’ Court this morning. Photo by Ashleigh Furlong.

This morning, charges against the 23 students and workers who were arrested last Tuesday at UCT were dropped.

The 23 were arrested on 20 October when they blocked entrances to the campus after UCT obtained an interdict preventing them from doing so.

The Registrar of UCT Hugh Amoore sent representations to the Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Rodney de Kock on 26 October asking for all charges to be withdrawn against those charged on 20 and 21 October. This relates to both the 23 arrested on Tuesday on campus and the 29 arrested on Wednesday during and after the protest at Parliament.

The University also asked for the interdict to be lifted, which was granted.

The two charges that had been brought against the 23 accused were contravening the court interdict and contravention of Section 12 of the Regulation of the Gatherings Act 2005.

Advocate Mustaque Holland, who is part of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers representing the accused, said that the charges against the 23 were withdrawn on the basis of the representation made by UCT. Speaking outside the Wynberg Magistrates’ Court, he said this bodes well for the 29 arrested at Parliament. They are only due to appear next year.

A large crowd of about 200 people had gathered outside the court, protesting against outsourcing, high university fees and police violence against protesters.

Headman August who is a member of Nehawu and works for G4S as part of UCT’s campus security, said that UCT’S statement was “not good enough”.

He said that agreeing to the “principle of insourcing” did not guarantee that the university would implement insourcing.

“UCT has to come with a statement saying ‘we are insourcing, we are ending outsourcing’,” said August.

He said that outsourced workers at UCT needed insourcing so that they could earn a living wage and receive benefits such as medical aid and housing subsidies.

“We can’t send our child to UCT because we are not getting a living wage,” he said.

UCTWorkers-20151028-AshleighFurlong-20151028.jpgProtest earlier today against outsourcing at UCT. Photo by Ashleigh Furlong.

After a meeting last night with university management, Fort Hare students have decided to end their #FeesMustFall protest. But students at Walter Sisulu University (WSU) resolved to continue protesting after rejecting agreements between the university’s Student Representative Council (SRC) and management.

Last night, SRC members from both universities met management of the two universities. The Fort Hare meeting was on the Bhisho campus and WSU meeting on the Heritage campus in East London.

Fort Hare student leader Malakhiwe Mbambo said the meeting with management was very fruitful. He said management had promised that the debt of students who still owed the university money would be cleared. Students were happy because 90% of their demands had been met, said Mbambo.

“Everything is back to normal. We will be writing exams next week. This week students are on study leave”.

The WSU meeting was interrupted by students who accused SRC president Thulani Landu of trying to meet management alone and of failing to raise the issues they wanted discussed.

Mawethu Sobethwa, a student protester, said the meeting had not lasted long because students were not happy with the way the SRC president handled the meeting. He accused Landu of not sticking to what the students agreed on.

Sobethwa said students had elected a “task team” to negotiate with university management. In the meantime, he said, the protests would continue.

WSU vice chancellor Khaya Mfenyana said classes would resume on Thursday 29 October and all members of staff were to report for duty. In a memorandum posted on Facebook today he said management regretted that the Tuesday meeting had been disrupted “by a group of students from the Buffalo City Campus”.

He confirmed that fees would not be increased next year. As for student debt, he said, that issue would be addressed by the presidential task team announced by President Jacob Zuma last Friday.

But chairperson of the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania Odwa Nokwali said students had decided not to return to class until Mfenyana met their task team.

There was serious tension at Wits University today. The campus bookshop was burnt overnight.

This morning workers at the university protested against outsourcing. They also met in Senate House to express their demands.

Also, a group of people walked around campus disrupting activities including classes. They threatened reporters, and instructed GroundUp’s photographer to delete her photographs. She did, but then recovered them.

Wits1-20151028-JulietteGarms-20151028.jpgProtesters disrupt a lecture at Wits. Photo by Juliette Garms.

Reports provided by Ashleigh Furlong, Nombulelo Damba, Siphesihle Matyila and Juliette Garms.

CORRECTION: The headline and introduction to this story were modified, after publication, to be more accurate.

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