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Thursday, 16 November 2017

Lights, camera, (treatment) action

CPUT’s Department of Somatology got the Hollywood treatment – so to speak – when two staff members and two students appeared on SABC2’s popular teen programme, Hectic Nine-9.

Motivated by CPUT’s resolve to conduct research that seeks to address society’s challenges, CPUT academics are collaborating with herbalists to validate their work.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Acting VC's statement on protest

Dear Members of the Media,

I have been monitoring much of what you have been reporting and thought the time had certainly come for us as a collective to put our own case forward and do what we can to quell this alarming spread of misinformation by protesting students.

Perhaps it would be most appropriate for me to sketch the current situation at CPUT. There are a few trending topics or themes that most of the reporting seems to centre around and I hope that I touch on all of them here.

Firstly CPUT is a community of close to 40 000 staff and students and we believe this crisis is being perpetuated by a small militant group of students and insourced staff. We estimate their numbers to be no more than 200, but by using sheer intimidatory tactics, brute force, violence and arson, these numbers can swell, depending on the incident. The protesters are not a homogeneous group, there are distinctions between campuses and student structures. The protesters are by and large not part of legitimate student structures so are informal student leaders who, as a result, do not understand or refuse to understand university protocol and procedures and also have not been privy to official institutional forums and committees where many of their alleged grievances are discussed and resolved. This complete naivety and in most cases disrespect of legitimate institutional structures make it nearly impossible to engage in any meaningful way with protesters. I know this is a frustration shared by many Higher Education Institutions and is not unique to CPUT.

For example the ever-shifting array of protest demands. As management, no sooner have we settled one concern, that protesters will insist is the final and most urgent, than another more pressing one raises its head. Examples of these include residences, insourcing, university assembly, financial exclusions, student discipline and militarisation, to name a few, which have become sticking points here at CPUT.

Signs that there was trouble on the horizon first raised its head in July when tensions around insourcing saw academic activities disrupted for four days. The issue is now largely resolved apart from a faction of insourced workers who are aligned to protesting students.

In September the arson attacks intensify and included attacks on the staff room at Mowbray campus, a Financial Aid office on the Bellville campus, a lecture theatre at the Cape Town campus and most horrifically an attack on St Marks Church on Cape Town campus. The issue shifted to the demand for charges to be dropped against four CPUT student leaders.

In October the institution closed for a little over a week after staff and student cars are stoned. The main bone of contention then was the disciplinary hearing against the four student leaders. When this is concluded with the sanction of expulsion suspended for 12 months the protest demands immediately shift to financial exclusions, a matter which the university already has a standing resolution on which is that no academically deserving student will be excluded financially. Once the university reaffirmed this stance the demand changed to a call for a so-called university assembly. This week has been punctuated by sporadic flare ups in violence, which private security has managed to contain. The damage to property in 2015 and 2016 amounted to R50 million. The total for damages incurred this year is still being tallied.

Let us be clear on the matter of a university assembly. It is management’s view that what the students are in effect calling for is nothing more than a mass meeting, the likes of which has been twice agreed to by management in 2016. On both occasions the meetings ended in chaos, violence and threats on staff lives. In the current volatile climate it would be irresponsible for us to allow a mass meeting of this nature to go ahead.

The issue of militarisation puzzles me most. The most critical point on which the entire issue of private security rests is that CPUT is obliged by law to provide a safe working environment for staff and students. Our own campus protection services have been compromised with its partial allegiance to protesters and ultimately they do not have the capacity to deal with the current situation. The majority of staff and students take comfort in the level of security afforded because it provides them a measure of safety as they come to and from class and work every day. What is often forgotten, is that we are the custodians of public facilities, paid for by taxpayers, and it MUST be protected. Lastly our private security is guided by a strict code of conduct, which mandates them to firstly be clearly identifiable and have clear lines of accountability. Since the start of the latest period of unrest the university has spent close to R30 million on private security services.

In conclusion I want to assure you that while the current situation across campuses is certainly not normal we are on track to finish the academic programme on schedule. Our lecturers have become ever more creative in how they plan ahead for scenarios like this and as we speak we enjoy above average attendance in classes. Assessments are continuing largely unaffected and plans for the graduation ceremony in December are going ahead.

I hope this short synopsis has helped sketch a more realistic version of the true state of events at the institution and as always we continue to rely on your support going forward.

Thank You

Dr Chris Nhlapo

Acting Vice-Chancellor

An impoverished community, which used to have a thriving clothing, industry may see a resurgence in the trade thanks to a CPUT intervention.

As part of its Mandela Day initiative, the Faculty of Engineering has launched a donation drive to raise funds to renovate an overcrowded local orphanage.

Two staff members from the Emergency Medical Sciences Department were at the coalface of the recent devastating fires in Knysna, assisting with humanitarian aid.

Two CPUT students have started a campaign in aid of residents who lost their belongings during a devastating fire in Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay recently.