Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
17 Sep 2015
4:01 pm

TUT management joined in contempt bid

Ilse de Lange

The High Court in Pretoria has granted an application that individual management members of the Tshwane University of Technology be joined in contempt of court proceedings against the university.

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) said they believed management members who caused TUT to disobey an urgent court order allowing evicted students to return to their residences during protest action in 2014 should be held personally accountable for contempt of court.

When student protests erupted at TUT campuses in January last year, the University decided to close all campuses and evict residence students without first obtaining a court order.

LHR assisted students to obtain an urgent interdict allowing them to return to their residences as they had no alternative accommodation and their eviction was unlawful.

The human rights organisation said although TUT acknowledged the court order on its website, it wilfully ignored the court order for several days.

It was only after LHR brought an urgent contempt of court application against the university that it finally complied.

TUT in turn brought an application for the rescission of the urgent court order in favour of the students and also issued an apology to the students and court for its failure to comply with the order.
Judge Mabel Jansen earlier this week sharply criticised TUT management for wilfully disregarding the court order.

Also read: State will fire VUT security firm following murder of two students 

She said that “in circumstances where the TUT was alleging that circumstances were dangerous, desperate and even life-threatening a supine approach was wholly inappropriate.”

“(They) knew full well that there would be massive repercussions and were constrained to be vigilant to monitor the situation.”

The Judge said TUT took drastic measures to mitigate the damage to its property and the safety of its staff and students during violent and chaotic circumstances, but went a step too far by taking matters into its own hands and evicting students without a court order.

They knew about the court order and intentionally seeking to disregard the consequences of unlawful action could not be excused, she said.

The court joined the former TUT vice-chancellor Nthabiseng Audrey Ogude, TUT registrar Motoane Mothata and Deputy Registrar Vusi Mgwenya as respondents in the contempt of court application.

The court also granted a punitive cost order against TUT and its officials because of “the haphazard way in which counsel for the [TUT] presented his arguments to the court”.