Revealed: Guards cost varsity R5m for 37 days
Documents seen by Times Select show staggering amounts were spent on military-style security services
Sophisticated intelligence-gathering vehicles and guards fitted with go-pro cameras were just some of the security measures employed by universities to quell violent campus protests — and it came at an eye-watering price.
The Cape Peninsula University of Technology last year signed a R5-million contract with a company to provide “riot security services” for 37 days – despite staff demanding their removal from campus. And this was still small change compared to what was spent on additional security the year before.
But after having student buses and campus buildings torched and cars stoned, CPUT insists it was necessary, and that the presence of the additional security on campus made a huge difference in bringing the chaos under control.
“It became clear that traditional security measures would not quell the violence,” CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley told Times Select.
CPUT’s acting-vice-chancellor, Nkongwane Nhlapo, extended the contract of controversial security company Vetus Schola to cover the period November 25 to December 31 last year although about 60 staff members had written an open letter to him in October complaining about the militarisation of the campus.
Times Select has seen documents detailing the amount that was agreed upon between the university and Vetus Schola.
In their letter to Nhlapo, staff reportedly complained about the climate of terror created by the security company which resulted in both staff and students being traumatised.
Speaking under condition of anonymity, a staff member said that Vetus Schola, which has been one of the security companies operating on campus since the start of the FeesMustFall campaign in 2015, was paid more than R20-million for services rendered from October 15 to November 14 2016. Asked to comment specifically on the figure of the R20-million, the university did not respond.Kansley told Times Select that it spent R90-million overall on security in 2017.
“CPUT suffered extensive property damage during the crisis years of 2015 and 2016. Apart from this, the human capital toll was also immense, the stress on staff and students was intolerable and the strain on the academic programme could not continue.”
She said that, as a result of all these factors, “a firm and all-encompassing stance on security and maintaining business continuity was taken by management.
“At the time our own campus protection service was compromised with its partial allegiance to protesters and ultimately they simply did not have the capacity or appropriate training to deal with the situation.
“While undoubtedly costly, we believe that the true value of securing our campuses has had a long-term positive effect.”
She said that several factors had led to the decision to hire Vetus Schola in 2017, including tensions around student suspensions; the torching of a student transport bus; student and staff car stonings; and the torching of the District Six campus’s multi-purpose hall and the St Marks Church.She said that some of the unusual security measures undertaken included the use of trained security officials who were not from the region; sophisticated vehicles capable of intelligence gathering; the fitting of all guards with go-pro cameras; and regular searches of student residences.
“The damage to property and institutional assets was significantly less as a result of the heightened security measures.”
Meanwhile, University of Cape Town spokesperson Elijah Moholola confirmed that UCT had spent R12.2-milion since June last year on additional security which included the cost of equipment, vehicles and razor wire fencing.
“UCT has five campuses, three of which are open campuses with access not restricted to the public; hence there is a need to enhance security at different points.”
Stellenbosch University has spent R200,000 this year on “additional guarding during the registration period, mainly as a precautionary measure”.
Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said that according to law the university's own campus security staff may not get involved in crowd control.
“For that reason, the university has contracted private security companies to assist with access control at buildings and, when necessary, crowd control.”
The spokesperson for the University of South Africa, Martin Ramotshela, said it had spent over R600,000 on additional security since June last year.The vice-chancellor of Sol Plaatje University in Northern Cape, Professor Yunus Ballim, said the university had hired additional security between June last year and now but not because of student unrest.
“We have expanded our campus buildings to accommodate a 34% increase in student intake and this has naturally resulted in the need for increased security.”
Shirona Patel, spokesperson for the University of the Witwatersrand, said that it had significantly reduced its spend on private security in recent years.
She said that a new initiative was launched last month to significantly improve security on the streets of Braamfontein and Parktown in Johannesburg.
“The joining of the Braamfontein Management District comes at a cost of R64,000 per month but gives Wits the opportunity to intervene directly in matters within the precinct.”
She said security measures included the additional deployment of vehicle patrols; the establishment of an urban management task team; an integrated surveillance camera system; and an automated crime reporting system.
“Additional patrol vehicles have been deployed in Parktown as well as visible foot patrols and security officers.”
The Nelson Mandela University, the University of Venda, North West University and Rhodes University did not incur extra costs for additional security since June last year.