Following rumors of “eviction” for Parktown Village Residents to expand parking space for Wits Business School, Wits University has responded.
WITS Business School (WBS) has responded that a plan to turn a student residence into a parking lot it still just a “draft” though student leaders say the university has confirmed to them privately that the plan is to go ahead.
Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, Jane Balnaves, spokesperson for WBS, said the plan to close Parktown Village (PKV) residence is still a “drafted potential expansion plan.”
However, deputy chair of the All Residence Council (ARC), William Mokone, says the university has sent an official response to the SRC which confirms that the university is planning on closing Parktown village for WBS’ facilities, including a parking lot.
“The university has made it clear that, they will not stop the expansion on WBS into the village,” added Mokone. “But we have agreed, that they will not move any student before the end of the year.”
Students have raised concerns that the removal of Parktown Village Residence, a series of small houses that accommodates 150 students, will leave postgraduate students without affordable accommodation. PKV costs only R33 785 a year, which makes it the cheapest postgraduate residence. In comparison, West Campus Village costs R67 160 and Wits Junction costs R45 753 for shared rooms and R54 540 for singles.
The residence is also popular with medical students because of its longer, more flexible time tables accommodates the Wits Medical Schools’ schedule.
Gloria Phasha, a 5th year medical student and PKV resident, told Wits Vuvuzela that she has no idea where she would stay if not for PKV.
“Where are we supposed to go to next year? Junction is too expensive,” she said.
Last week Thursday residents of PKV staged a protest against the closure of the residence. They were joined by some cleaning staff and students from neighbouring residences. The group chanted “uHabib akasoze ayithole le” (Habib will never get this one), as they protested outside the WBS.
Makone says the concerns raised during the protest have been sent to the university and the university has promised “alternative accommodation of equal standard and pricing.”
However, Makone believes “that the university is either being naive or they are trying to just pacify us.”
The issue came to the ARC’s attention a month ago in a meeting with university management, which indicated that “at first they wanted only three houses.”
However, Makone said that two weeks ago the ARC was called to a meeting by Rob Sharman, the director of Campus Housing & Residence Life. According to Makone, he told the committee that “PKV is only going to have eight houses remaining … and the rest is going to be turned into a parking lot” Mokone said. The eight remaining houses will be turned into facilities for WBS.
Wits Vuvuzela contacted Sharman for comment but he is currently out of the country.
Pandelani Nekhumbe, chair of the PKV house committee, said the proposed closure was causing stress on residents.
“We cannot have villagers stressing and worrying at a time when exams are just a doorstep away.”
Dr Pamela Dube, the Dean of students has assured the students that the University will not further any plans without the interests of the students.
“The University is mindful of our responsibility around the accommodation needs of students, and have given an undertaking that we will not reduce, but rather increase beds” said Dube.