IF you thought finding parking on campus was tough, getting the parking office to answer a question is tougher: Is the university charging for parking bays it doesn’t have?
Full-time students pay R642 for a parking bay they can’t always find, resulting in many parking outside of campus or in no-parking zones.
Vuvuzela is not the first to try and get an answer to this question. “Don’t bother trying to take the parking issue up. We’ve been trying to fight that battle for a while now and that’s not happening,” said a member of the Wits medical school council.
And a battle it has been. University bureaucracy seems to hold firm when it comes to answering questions and giving information that is in the interest of those who pay.
Vuvuzela’s “battle” began on August 8 when an e-mail request for an interview with the Wits parking office manager, Vijanthi Purmasir, did not receive a response.
This reporter sent questions and had to re-send them because Purmasir – and later Emannuel Prinsloo, Wits director of campus development and planning – failed to answer specific questions.
In response to an initial enquiry of how many Witsies are registered for parking, we were
told the total number fluctuated throughout the year. Purmasir said they did “not have the figures yet” when asked for the figures as they stood in February and now.
And as to whether the number of students registered for parking exceeded the number of parking bays provided, Purmasir repeated a response she gave to Vuvuzela in March, saying there is enough parking for students registered.
When Purmasir was pushed about why the parking office did not have numbers “yet” in August but was still able to say “the numbers fluctuate” and “there is enough parking”, she did not respond.
Further questions were then handled by Prinsloo who said he was waiting for the total number of permits sold.
Vuvuzela asked if there is a cut-off for the number of students and received this reply on August 17 from Purmasir: “Presently there is no cut-off system for the amount [sic] of students who may apply for parking.”
However, a week later Prinsloo indicated this could change: “In terms of the proposed new parking policy, the intention would be to limit the number of parking permits sold annually whilst keeping a percentage for sale later in the year”.
According to the National Building Regulations (NBR), proposed new buildings need to accommodate for parking according to the type of building and institution.
“The construction of the Science Stadium, similar to the FNB Building renovations and extension, had not resulted in the increase of parking facilities required on campus as the overall student number is not envisaged to expand as a result of these facilities being constructed,” said Prinsloo’s e-mail response.
Town and regional planner, Kevin Wilkins, agrees with this but says, “Council probably would however insist on parking being provided if the new building was to be physically situated on an existing parking lot and there was a direct loss of parking”.
Liberty is given to big institutions when it comes to building plan approvals, says Wits alumnus and architect Tseko Mashifane.
“They can continue to build as long as they prove they have the minimum required bays for a building. It is in fact very courteous for them to provide ‘island’ parking spaces.
“The assumption is that you are a student to learn on their premises and how you get there is not really their problem.”
When many universities began, very few students used cars which allowed councils to be less stringent about parking provision.