#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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Calls to expel Israeli ambassador from South Africa

The ANC (African National Congress), its alliance members, Cosatu and the SACP (South African Communist Party), and pro-Palestinian organisations held a press conference at Cosatu House earlier today, denouncing the Israeli government for denying Minister Blade Nzimande and his delegation visas to enter Palestine.  

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PRO-PALESTINE ALLIANCE: Members of COSATU, SACP, BDSSA, YCL, and SAUS, amongst others at Cosatu House announcing their plans to boycott Israel earlier today. Photo: Zimasa Mpemnyama

Various African National Congress-aligned and pro-Palestinian organisations vowed today that they would force the South African government to expel the Israeli ambassador, amongst other demands.

The demands, in response to Israel’s refusal to grant a visa to Minister Blade Nzimande and his delegation to travel to Palestine, were announced at a press conference held this afternoon at Cosatu House.

Organisations present at the press conference included the South African Communist Party (SACP), Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), Young Communist League (YCL), South African Students Congress (SASCO), the South African Union of Students (SAUS), and members of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa (BDSSA), amongst others.

The organisations said they believed that Nzimande, the minister of Higher Education and Training, was denied access to Palestine because of Israel’s “apartheid” laws.

“The embassy of Israel must go.”

The acting National Spokesperson of Cosatu, Norman Mampane, said Blade Nzimande’s stance against Isreal should not be viewed as his individual views, but rather as ANC policy, adopted by the ANC National Executive Committee.

Government given an ultimatum

Mampane highlighted an action plan that included requesting the ANC government to impose bans on Israeli nationals travelling to South Africa, holding a national meeting with Student Representative Councils (SRCs), from universities around the country to discuss an academic boycott of Israel, and calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, Arthur Lenk, from South Africa within 10 days.

“It’s clear that they [Israel] don’t want to talk … so in ten days if the embassy is not closed, we will go and close it ourselves,” said Matome Chiloane, Chairman of the Gauteng ANCYL.

Bheki Ntshalintshali, Cosatu Deputy General Secretary said that they are not surprised by the Israeli government’s decision to deny Minister Nzimande a visa, because the “Israeli government has been consistent in denying Palestinian people their freedom”.

“The embassy of Israel must go,” Ntshalintshali said.

Nzimande was invited to Palestine to discuss and participate in the launch of the Centre for African Studies at a Palestinian university. Nzimande did not attend the press conference.