The University of South Africa (Unisa) has obtained an urgent high court interdict against protesters opposed to outsourcing and labour-broking, who have vowed to completely shut down the university until their demands were met.
The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria last week granted the urgent order, interdicting the protesters from entering Unisa premises and instigating riotous and violent behaviour, disrupting campus activities, vandalising property, illegally occupying buildings, carrying weapons and intimidating, threatening or harming any employees, students or visitors.
The leaders of the protest action were ordered to ensure compliance with the court order, failing which they have to give reasons to the court why they should not be held in contempt of the order.
The university turned to the court for relief after a week of protest action that saw the vandalisation and trashing of the critically important dispatch department, the removal of security officers from their posts and the violent disruption of campus activities.
The acting vice-principal of development and transformation at the university, Liana Griesel, said in an affidavit the Unisa council at the end of last year decided to set up a committee to investigate the issue of insourcing of security, gardening services, catering, waste removal and cleaning services.
The university negotiated with all interested parties and an agreement was reached, resulting in the contract for the outsourcing of security services being terminated.
However, the fact that only some of the outsourced contract workers could be offered permanent employment resulted in security guards deserting their posts, toyi-toying and chanting and leaving all security posts unmanned.
An attempt to meet with the leaders to defuse the situation failed.
Griesel said the university had a world-class security examination-paper printing centre, which was profoundly critical, as the integrity of examinations was central to the university’s credibility.
A trained team of security officers did the actual printing and packaging of exam papers and manned a specially built vault for security, but they were intimidated and removed.
This placed the critical facility at high risk. She said it was impossible to rationally engage with the protesters, who demanded immediate insourcing and were committed to shutting down Unisa.
According to Griesel, the disruptions had already harmed the university’s reputation and now also placed the integrity of examination papers at risk.