“The South African Students Congress (SASCO) has called on students to return to campus in order to protect their belongings from thugs who are exploiting this period of the pandemic”.

South African student organisation, SASCO, is calling on students to return to their university residences to claim their belongings.  In the statement released by the organisation on Wednesday, May 6, SASCO claims that while students are at home during the lockdown, their residence rooms are being “looted” by people pretending to be fumigation and sanitation workers at a number of universities around the country. 

“Student rooms have been exposed to looting which is hidden behind fumigation and sanitization at 14 universities,” said the SASCO statement. 

SASCO declined to say which universities were affected with president Bamanye Matiwane telling Wits Vuvuzela, “we cannot disclose the universities without first checking if they want their institutions exposed.”

Private residence provider, South Point Student Accommodation, which houses 13000 students across five cities, say that there have been no cases of theft at their residences.  

“We haven’t had any reports of any theft from student rooms which remain locked, within locked-down buildings. Our professional service suppliers, providing ongoing fumigation and decontamination services during lockdown, are strictly managed and monitored,” says Ndumiso Davidson, SouthPoint CEO.

When asked about the risk of students returning to residences to fetch their belongings, Matiwane said, “we are not calling on students to go back to res to stay, we want students to be allowed to get their belongings.” 

Matiwane said that SASCO was requesting for reassurance about the security of the belongings inside students’ property and a guarantee that stolen items would  be reimbursed to students but says it is not in any discussions with universities in regards to the alleged theft of students’ belongings.

“Universities need to be made liable and we are communicating through the ministry of higher education and the ministry of Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs,” said Matiwane. “We will accept no further explanation from complicit vice-chancellors; therefore, all our structures are instructed to comply with this directive,” read the SASCO statement. 

Matiwane says SASCO has been contacted by parents and students who want to retrieve the belongings since the release of his organisation’s statement but SouthPoint says they have had no requests to that effect. 

“At present we have not had any additional students return to our residences: they would not be allowed in as per the government-regulated Level 4 restrictions,” said Davidson.

Wits University says, “The call (by SASCO), is in contravention of the state’s regulations to address the pandemic … Wits will inform the university community of when students can return to campus.” The vast majority of students vacated their residences ahead of the national lockdown on March 26, and campuses remain closed.

FEATURED IMAGE: SASCO has called on students to return to their respective residences, questioning the security of students belongings, with theft reported in 14 universities. Photo: Provided