Wits students staying at WTF Lofts have been left in the cold following protests by Central Johannesburg College (CJC) students and an investigation by Wits Vuvuzela.

Things came to a head last week after students from CJC ran amok and accused Aengus Property Holdings (APH), a company contracted to give them accommodation, of favouring Wits students because they were paying more money.

After Wits Vuvuzela called APH to investigate, a Wits student, Gundo Mmbi called to say she and other Witsies had been stopped from moving into WTF Lofts after they had paid a deposit and signed leases.

Mmbi said she had been asked to come and collect her keys and move into her room. On arrival at APH with their luggage, she and other Wits students were told to go back home as they were not getting accommodation anymore. Their banking details were taken and they were advised they would be refunded on Monday.

“There was no explanation why we are being refunded or any logical explanation or an apology.”

On Monday, Mmbi said she called APH to ask about the refund and was told her money would be in her account within 21 days. She also accused APH of favouring CJC students.

“CJC students are supposed to pay R2250 per room two people sharing, and they put four of them in that and that means they make more money by overcrowding them. Now we are homeless.”

APH CEO Peter Schubach said agents had accepted money from Wits students, promising them accommodation which was no longer available. He said the Wits students would have their deposits reimbursed.

Mmbi believes she and her friends were denied the promised accommodation because Wits Vuvuzela had approached APH over allegations that Wits students were getting preferential treatment over CJC students.

According to the CJC students the company has a contract with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and CJC to provide accommodation.

CJC students had already moved into WTF Lofts in January, however, on the night of the 29th, an official from APH came to inform them they would be moved to another building in Langlaagte.

“We don’t want to go to Langlaagte. It’s too far, which means we would be late for our lessons every day. The bathrooms there are dirty, transport is poor, water supply is poor,” said a student would only identify himself as “CK”.

The CJC students marched from the building they were being ejected out of, WTF Lofts at the corner of Juta and Biccard streets, to RAD Lofts on Bertha Street, just opposite Wits University.

They sang and toyi-toyied outside and marched back to WTF Lofts where foam single-bed mattresses were being loaded onto a truck.

Students took the mattresses from the truck and carried them back into the building but were denied entry.

Some of the CJC students got rowdy and blocked traffic along Juta Street. One female student threatened Wits Vuvuzela journalist, Zandi Shabalala.

“You will be sorry if you take pictures of us,” she said before hitting Shabalala’s camera with a fist. Another CJC student threw a mattress at her.

A comment could not be obtained from the CJC co-ordinator.  Another official from the school, who would not give his name, referred all questions to APH.

Schubach said CJC students evicted were never meant to stay at WTF Lofts permanently.

“[They] were just supposed to be housed temporarily for one or two nights while we looked for other accommodation. They did not even sign leases.”

Schubach said some students agreed to be moved while those that resisted had to be forcibly removed.

One of the students that moved to Langlaagte told Wits Vuvuzela that conditions at the residence were deplorable.

“We live in a commune and the showers do not have curtains. The rooms have no windows, it’s just walls and walls.”

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 1st edition, 6th February 2013