#FeesMustFall protests cost universities R800m

The #FeesMustFall protests have left institutions of higher learning with a hefty R800 million bill in damage to infrastructure and the hiring of extra security. Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor revealed this on Wednesday, August 8, in a written reply to a question posed by a Democratic Alliance (DA) member of parliament.

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) arrived at the figure after requesting submissions from all institutions to cover damage caused by the protests from 2015-2017. DHET then compiled a detailed report of the figures it obtained from each university. The report further broke down the figures according to year and the details of the damage provided.

Wits University told Wits Vuvuzela that it reported an estimated R25 million worth of damage for 2015 – 2017, whereas, according to the DHET report, Wits reported R28 million worth of damage in 2015 but none for 2016 and 2017.

Wits Vuvuzela sought clarification from the university for these discrepancies, however, seemingly no-one can provide the answers.

Buhle Zuma, the university spokesperson, didn’t answer questions relating to: how the sum was calculated; the details of the damage and costs that were considered in the final figure; and how the university separated the cost of #FeesMustFall related damage from damage that was not related to protests.

She also couldn’t explain the absence of a 2016 figure when there is documented evidence of damage to Solomon Mahlangu House and a fire on the second floor of the Wartenweiler Library.

DHET spokesperson, Lunga Nqgengelele said that there were no standard criteria used to determine the cost and each university used its own criteria to determine the amount of damage created by #FeesMustFall protests.

“We assumed the universities would be the best positioned to determine which criteria to use when calculating the amount,” Nqgengelele told Wits Vuvuzela.
Some universities, such as North West University, included the cost of additional private security while others only included infrastructure damage.

NWU recorded the highest costs, which are estimated to have been R198 million. This was largely a result of two buildings being set alight on the Mafikeng campus in February 2016, resulting in the university being temporarily shut down. This damage amounted to R151 million in the 2015-2016 financial year.

NWU spokesperson Louis Jacobs said that the university compiled its final figure using incident reports they had sent to their insurers. “These are all student unrest related, distinguished from routine damage,” Jacobs told Wits Vuvuzela.

Nqgengelele added that the cost had severely set back the government’s programme to provide education. “Money is not freely available; we will have to take it from somewhere else. I won’t be surprised if students wake up tomorrow and protest not having a library meanwhile they burnt the library down,” he said.

FEATURED IMAGE: Graffiti from the #FeesMustFall protests, which reads ‘#Asinamali” can still be found around Wits campuses.
Photo: Naledi Mashishi

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