9 February 2016
Dear colleagues and students
The Vice Chancellor wrote to you on 31 January 2016 on the issue of security and particularly private security. Please take the time to read it if you have not done so already.
Various additional questions related to UCT's use of private security have subsequently been raised by some staff and also by RhodesMustFall.
We wish to be transparent about the matter and hence share the following details with you in addition to what the VC has already stated in his previous VCDESK:
- We recognise it as our responsibility to ensure a safe, secure and conducive environment on campus for all constituencies, students, academic staff and workers.
- The executive does not necessarily want private security operations on campus. We wish to return to an environment where these services are not needed.
- We are currently spending some R2 million a month to retain these services, which we would rather spend on other essential priorities. The consistent threat on the daily functioning of the university by some members of RMF unfortunately presses for the presence of these security operations.
- Students identifying as RMF have disrupted the functioning of the university on several occasions and last week brought core activities for student accommodation to a standstill. Similar disruptions occurred in 2015 with attempts to stop the November exams and to occupy key operation centres of the university. 2016 started with threats to disrupt the registration process by the broader FeesMustFall Movement, and some members of RMF have engaged in protest action that has involved intimidating staff, invading meetings and ransacking residence kitchens. We are proceeding with charges where we have identified individuals.
- We acknowledge that RMF as a movement could and should play a constructive role. During the recent accommodation challenges, the SRC and RMF raised issues that need to be addressed. This is helpful. Unfortunately the consequent behaviour by some RMF members to bring operations to a standstill compounded the problems rather than assisted in resolving the issues. It paralysed the very services that need to resolve the issues and also traumatised staff.
- Such methods by some members of RMF are regrettable: intimidation, violence, destruction, intolerance and on occasions, criminality. It is precisely this behaviour that leads to the cost of R2 million per month for private security.
- Given this regrettable behaviour by some members of RMF, the executive has suspended talks with RMF. We have requested RMF to give an undertaking that it will respect the boundaries of legitimate protest, that its members will stop intimidating staff and that the movement will engage with the executive in good faith. This will open the way for discussions to resume and can form the basis for a decision to remove the increased presence of private security from the university. Without such an undertaking and sufficient demonstration by RMF of honoring such an undertaking, the executive cannot and will not remove the private security from campus. To do this would mean abrogating its responsibility towards the broader university community and allowing RMF free reign to disrupt the functioning of the university. We wish to engage RMF on the substantive issues of transformation, but we cannot accept, condone or countenance a culture of impunity.
- As described by the Vice-Chancellor the accountability for the actions of any member of the private security rests with the UCT executive. The companies comply with UCT rules. They work strictly on instruction from the executive and senior staff. All officers wear identification at all times and are not armed.
- The three companies currently involved in security matters on campus are:
- G4S (who provide Campus Protection Services);
- Sonday Investments (who provide additional campus protection officers)
- Vetus Scola Protection Services (who provide additional back-up in serious instances where crowd control may be necessary).
I wish to thank all UCT staff, particularly the staff in the frontline offices of the Department of Student Affairs (DSA). Many staff worked selflessly to serve students despite incredibly difficult circumstances created by the behaviour of RMF members. UCT and the students are indebted to you for persevering despite the challenges.
Professor Francis Petersen
Chair of the Special Executive Task Team