Suspended student “escorted off the campus”


A Wits student and audience member get into a physical altercation at transformation panel hosted by the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences on Thursday night. Photo: Nokuthula Zwane

A physical altercation between a suspended Wits student and an audience member was just one of the many disruptions at a discussion about transformation at Wits University last night.

The discussion hosted by the Faculty of Health Sciences for their annual Ethics Alive Symposium included the Vice-Chancellors Adam Habib (Wits University), Max Price (University of Cape Town – UCT), Dan Kgwadi (North West University – NWU) and Mvuyo Tom (University of Fort Hare), along with struggle veteran and Wits alumnus George Bizos. Suspended student, Zama Mthunzi, who came into the venue wearing a t-shirt that read: Habib, Price kill Black lives,” was later removed by private security guards.

The unidentified man that he got into an altercation with was not removed leading to calls for his eviction from some remaining students who proceeded to interrupt the presentations of the speakers. 


T-shirt says it all: During Prof. Kgwadi’s talk Wits student stands up and raises concerns

Habib then intervened and told the audience that “nobody is going anywhere”, and if the students could not let the speakers finish then they could leave.

Matters further escalated when another member in the audience said to the students “if you don’t want to be here then f**k off.”

In a statement released earlier today, Wits University confirmed that a suspended student had been “escorted off the campus.” Furthermore, the student was “reported to the police for violating a court order”. An audience member, who identified herself as an alumni of the university raised her concerns about the caustic relationship between the students, the vice chancellor and administration. “This policing of students, security and private militarisation is heart-breaking and only aggravates the relationship between the students and this administration,” she said.

Medical student, Nyabinghi Ngobeni, reminded Habib that last night’s event was the first time since last year’s protests that he has met with the students. “It’s disrespectful,” she said because the event should have been a student platform and everyone else there should have be disregarded.”

The gathering eventually concluded with an address by Wits alumnus and struggle stalwart Advocate George Bizos.

New calculations for old problems

Night Shift Payment - Amos Hlungwani

TIRING TIMES: Amos Hlungwani has been working for the university since 1996. He says he is concerned over the night shift payment dispute. Photo: Dana Da Silva

The union representing security guards on campus is still in dispute with the university over some night-shift payments and must deliver a new plan by the end of this month. The dispute started 14 years ago.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has until the end of this month to present the university management with new calculations regarding the night-shift allowance payment.

The dispute has been recurring since 2001. In a letter sent to Nehawu on Thursday September 4, 2014 deputy vice-chancellor Tawana Kupe said the university would address the matter by bringing in an independent mediator, Stuart Wilson, from the Socio-Economic Research Institute (SERI). Kupe is the unviersity’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Advancement, HR and Transformation.

The letter also said, once Wilson made a decision on the matter, payment arrangements would be made to affected staff. The final report written by Wilson said both parties didn’t provide sufficient information and calculations for him to make a decision. Both the university and the union had their own calculations over the amount that Wits owes the workers.

Wilson suggested they meet halfway with the university paying the workers a lump sum. The union went on to dispute this by writing to Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib, expressing its dissatisfaction. In a reply, Habib said management would set up a meeting with Nehawu and three task team security officers to discuss the issue. In the meeting, Nehawu was asked to bring in new calculations within the deadline of March 31 to the university management.

Professor Kupe said it isn’t possible that Campus Control workers are not being paid for the night shift. He said in 2009 university management reached an agreement with Nehawu, whereby the night shift would be paid as a monthly allowance. This would be adjusted annually and based on the annual increase.

Amos Hlungwani has been working for the university as a Campus Control officer since 1996. He describes the night shift as being very difficult. As part of the seven to seven, 12-hour shift they have to patrol the university, service the students and visitors at the gate as well as lock up the buildings and engage the alarms.

From when he started in 1996 he said they were paid an increase per month every year for night shift. The problem cropped up in 2001 when Amos said they stopped getting paid the allowance. He along with other colleagues didn’t know what changed. Workers haven’t been told anything since the meeting held by Wits and Nehawu over the issue in 2014.

To him it is unclear whether the union will accept the lump-sum offer or if they found an auditor in order to calculate the new amount. “We have to work because we are not serving management, we’re serving students and staff so we must work for their safety and protection,” Amos said. The issue has been going on for so long that Amos says it’s giving night workers stress.