Accommodation, parking and gym fees fall within the broad band of services students have not used since March.

South African universities say they are in discussions with key stakeholders about issuing refunds to students who had already made payments towards accommodations fees, gym memberships and parking permits before the lockdown at the end of March. 

“Wits will take guidance from the government and the department of higher education and training in this regard,” the university’s senior communications officer, Buhle Zuma, told Wits Vuvuzela

The Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu) had raised similar questions to the institution. In a letter to the union, Wits management responded that, “Parking fees and gym membership fees are accordingly due and payable in full on the relevant due dates.”

However, staff members were free to cancel parking permits and gym memberships as long as they took into account repercussions of such action. 

“Cancellation of a parking permit means that any parking bay allocated to that employee will not be reserved going forward. The employee will have to re-apply for a parking bay in terms of the university’s policies once the university re-opens,” the letter cautioned.

Wits management also noted that should staff wish to cancel their gym membership, they would be bound to the terms of cancellation stipulated in contractual agreements they would have previously agreed to.

What Southpoint says
Students are still expected to honour lease agreements and pay their rent during the lockdown period. However, CEO Ndumiso Davidson notes: “If the academic year shifts to the end of December and beyond into January, we would effectively credit students for the period that they were not in occupation.” With understanding that these are tough times for parents and private paying students, Davidson said, “Students who have payment issues should contact our head of student administration, Janice Petersen, on”

Spokesperson of the University of Pretoria (UP), Rikus Delport told Wits Vuvuzela that the university had not considered refunds yet. “It is too early to say as we are trying to do everything we can to salvage the academic year.”

Elijah Moholola, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) spokesperson, said “The university will communicate its fees-related decisions after engagements with the other universities, Universities South Africa (USAf) and the department of higher education, science and technology.”

USAf CEO Professor Ahmed Bawa told Wits Vuvuzela that the nature of compensation that students will receive will depend on the behaviour of the pandemic and the decisions taken by the National Command Council. 

What Campus Key Student Living says
All students not occupying their rooms will pay 40% less of their rent for the months of April, May and June. “We have planned it three months in advance. If the lockdown is extended then we will go back to the drawing board and see if we can extend it for another two or three months,” said Campus Key’s operations manager, JP van Wyk. Free wifi and laundry tokens are also being provided for those students who remain in Campus Key buildings.

“Ultimately students will be recompensed for the services they do not receive, and this will depend on the nature of the restructuring of the academic year,” said Bawa.

All three universities expressed determination to complete the academic year with Wit’s Zuma noting: “Universities collectively remain committed to completing the academic year, even if it is in a revised 2020 academic calendar.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits has not decided whether to refund students for accommodation fees, parking permits and gym memberships. Photo: File.