Universities need to re-evaluate their security plans and stop hiring security companies that lack the knowledge or resources to anticipate and deal with violent protests, a security expert said.
Institute for Security Studies (ISS) researcher Gareth Newham said although he was not certain about the security plans at the various universities, it was common for the institutions to hire security companies that were not trained to deal with a variety of security issues.
He advised that universities focus on having proper security plans in place to anticipate the various security issues.
“Most of the private security they hire are not capable of handling violent protests or demonstrations because they are not well trained or well equipped,” Newham said.
“Going forward, universities have to engage with their security plans, and make sure the security companies they hire are trained to deal with violent protests.
“Their security plan should include calling the public order policing unit of the SA Police Service (SAPS) because they are well trained and equipped.”
His comments come after the shutdown that saw protests erupting across several university campuses countrywide over accommodation and financial exclusions.
During a violent demonstration at the Durban University of Technology on Tuesday, a student affiliated with the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command sustained a gunshot wound after he was fired at by the private security hired by the university. He later died in hospital.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Thembele Mbele confirmed the incident and said a murder docket was opened at the Berea police station for investigation.
“Four students were arrested and charged with public violence and will appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court soon. Public order police contained the situation and managed to disperse the students. Police are in the area, monitoring the situation.”
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) also had its share of protests yesterday as a “handful of students” held “sporadic” demonstrations across all its campuses, calling for a shutdown.
UJ spokesperson Herman Esterhuizen said the issues expressed by the demonstrators included academic exclusion on the basis of registration fees and delays from Nsfas in finalising funding applications.
“It is also worth noting that some of the academic exclusions affect those returning who do not qualify for Nsfas funding because they underperformed in the last academic year.
“The university has implemented heightened security measures to ensure the safety of staff and students, as well as the university property, while the academic programmes and administrative activities continue.”
The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) also confirmed that it had received pressure from students who raised several concerns through demonstrations.
TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruyter said the situation on their campuses was now “normal and calm” as the university engaged with students and “other role players” to ensure the issues were addressed.
She said a contingency security plan was in place at the university “to be implemented as and when the need arises”.