University of Johannesburg says it is concerned with the safety of all students and staff 

The Student Representative Council (SRC) of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has launched an online petition urging students and members of the public to sign it in order to force the university to remove private security from its campuses.

The petition comes after allegations that private security – ‘bouncers’, according to students –use violent acts of brutality towards students, staff and the public.

The most recent of these is the alleged assault of a student by private security on the day of his graduation on Wednesday April 17.

Mpho Phasoane Mphahlele, an honours student, was meant to graduate with a BA in Public Management and Governance. He alleges that he was strangled by private security before his graduation and had to be treated at Garden City Hospital.  “I was choked harshly and I was given a prescription to ease the pain,” he told Wits Vuvuzela, saying he had opened a case of assault against the university.

A few days before graduation, Mphahlele had posted a message on Facebook that read “Tshilidzi Marwala (UJ vice-chancellor) must know that on Wednesday, UJ will be met with 1976 Soweto Uprising and 2014 Ethiopia Oromo Student-Community Protest.”

Mphahlele told Wits Vuvuzela that this post was only meant to express his excitement of seeing members of his collective graduate in majority.

Not so, according to UJ senior manager of strategic communications Lebogang Seale. He said Mphahlele, who is a former chairperson of the EFF Student Command at the UJ Soweto campus, was making threats against the university.

“The threats were about intensifying a planned action to disrupt the graduation ceremony,” Seale said.

The SRC had posted on social media that it was planning a #SaveABedForMe demonstration on graduation day to address issues of accommodation.

“Closer to the day of the graduation ceremony, on Tuesday, 16 April 2019, the threat of disruption escalated to be the threat of violence, harm to persons and property. In its assessment, the university decided to apply strict access control to campus and the venue of the graduations to ensure that every person and property at our premises are safe and secured,” Seale told Wits Vuvuzela.

Seale added that “Just before the graduation session could start, Mr. Mphahlele had been demonstrating at the venue and making it clear that he was not prepared to heed the university’s call for him to cooperate and conduct himself in accordance with the expected behaviour and respect for others and institutional regulations.”

UJ SRC chairperson Tshireletso Mati told Wits Vuvuzela that they hope to use the petition at a Senate or Council meeting towards the end of June, to show the views represented by students and members of the public.

“UJ is a public institution and while we represent the interests of students as the SRC, we appreciate support from university staff and the public. Bouncers do not only victimise students. An injustice to one is an injustice to all,” Mati said.

The petition had 932 signatures by Friday, April 26.

UJ media relations coordinator Herman Esterhuizen told Wits Vuvuzela that the presence of private security on campus is meant to allay the concerns that many parents have about the safety of students.

“At the University of Johannesburg, we understand that concern and accept our responsibility to implement security measures to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and that the university environment is conducive to learning and free from acts or threats of intimidation.”


FEATURED IMAGE: A photograph provided by UJ student Mpho Phasoane Mphahlele that he says shows private security at one of the institution’s campuses.