Update on protests and disruption

06 November 2017 | 21:55 | Campus Announcement

Dear students and colleagues

The campus announcement aims to inform members of the University of Cape Town community about:

1. UCT operations continue

UCT operations continue despite some interruptions which have particularly affected upper campus. Course convenors have discretion as to how classes, tests, practicals and assignments are to proceed. The Jammie shuttle service is operating. The libraries are from time to time affected by disrupters and the doors may be closed pro-actively. However students in the library are not required to leave when it is temporarily closed. Information about the status of the libraries, catering services in residences, as well as the Jammie shuttle service is available on the UCT website. We realise some students may choose not to attend lectures even when they are offered, out of fear of confronting disrupting protesters. As far as possible lecturers will provide backup recordings or notes for those who choose not to attend.

2. Report on disruptions

Although most tests were completed successfully last week, there were disruptions at test venues in the Sports Centre on Thursday and Friday evenings (2 and 3 November). On Thursday, 2 November private security officers held the line and prohibited protesters from going into the venue and Public Order Police Services (POPS) officers used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. On Friday evening (3 November), however, a test in the Sports Centre was targeted again. This time protesters threw bricks at the building smashing several windows. They also threw fire crackers into and around the venue and used sirens, causing a noise disturbance and the test had to be called off. Although private security prevented the protesters from entering the venue, the POPS were unfortunately deployed elsewhere in Cape Town and could not immediately attend to the situation.

This morning, Monday (6 November) protesters barricaded the north entrance with sand bags, but the POPS officers removed the obstruction and cleared the road. Dining rooms on lower campus were targeted and had to close. Groups of protesters moved around on campus in the morning disrupting classes and tests.

The executive are determined to complete the academic year and have condemned the vandalism, intimidation and disruption as completely unacceptable. Protesters behaving in this way will be charged with breaking the interdict and with malicious damage to property where appropriate. The executive has also indicated a grave concern that it seems that some of the protesters may not be UCT students.

3. Managing the disruptions.

Officers of the UCT Campus Protection Services (CPS) and members of the private security company, TSU, are tirelessly attempting to manage the situation wherever there are disruptions. Members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) are also assisting and we are thankful for their continued support. When incidents escalate to the level it did on Friday, the assistance of the POPS is essential to contain the situation. We are distressed that POPS has not been able to provide a more sustained presence on campus and have engaged with the POPS commanders to appeal for more support.

4. Engagements with students

Some social media posts by protesters have indicated that management is to blame for the collapse in engagement with the group over the weekend. This is not correct. The executive met with the students on several occasions over the weekend. Progress was made on some substantial issues in particular around mental health and suspected suicides. However, on Sunday during discussions the students indicated that they would not engage further. Allegations that members of the UCT executive threatened a student are not true. The executive rejects the accusation which threatens the already fragile trust relationship. The executive has indicated, however, that the door is always open for protesters to engage.

5. ICAS/SADAG Services

UCT services are available to provide support to students and staff who may be dealing with mental health issues or emotional stress. Students and staff are encouraged to seek assistance as early as possible. Below is a summary of the services available:

UCT Students: The SADAG Student Careline offers 24/7 telephonic counselling by professional psychologists. This includes crisis counselling for depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties, including assisting with referrals to health facilities where indicated. Students can access the service by calling 0800 24 25 26 free from a Telkom line or sending an SMS to 31393 for a callback.

UCT Staff: The SADAG helpline number for staff is 0800 171 171 or you can email office@anxiety.org.za and a counsellor will call you. UCT offers staff, their spouses/life partners and minor children access to short-term on-site counselling via Independent Counselling and Advisory Services (ICAS). The ICAS toll-free number is 0801 113 945 or you can send USSD code *134*905# to receive a return call.

6. IRTC Steering Committee Meeting

The Steering Committee for the Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC) met on 31 October. The agenda of the meeting focused on the selection of commissioners and budget.

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