The price of safety

Uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try spent mil­lions on ex­tra se­cu­rity dur­ing the height of the #FeesMustFall move­ment to pro­tect stu­dents and in­fra­struc­ture

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The cost of ex­tra se­cu­rity needed dur­ing the #FeesMustFall stu­dents’ cam­paigns has cost mil­lions of rands and has punched holes into the bud­gets of the coun­try’s uni­ver­si­ties, a City Press in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found. In a des­per­ate bid to bring back a peace­ful en­vi­ron­ment needed for learn­ing and safe­guard their price­less in­fra­struc­ture, uni­ver­si­ties have been forced to beef up se­cu­rity on their premises.

The in­for­ma­tion on se­cu­rity costs, how­ever, was not vol­un­tar­ily given to City Press. In Fe­bru­ary, City Press was forced to use the Pro­mo­tion of Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act to get 10 af­fected uni­ver­si­ties to re­veal the amounts spent on added se­cu­rity on cam­puses. Half of the uni­ver­si­ties com­plied and handed over the in­for­ma­tion.

The in­for­ma­tion re­quested in­cluded in­voices and pay­ment sched­ules of ex­pen­di­ture on pri­vate se­cu­rity from Fe­bru­ary 2015 to Jan­uary this year.

Some uni­ver­si­ties said that not all the in­for­ma­tion City Press re­quested could be pro­vided be­cause it in­volved third par­ties, which meant there were con­trac­tual re­straints in place re­gard­ing dis­clo­sure.

Re­sponses were re­ceived from the Univer­sity of Cape Town, Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, Wits Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg (UJ). With the ex­cep­tion of UJ, the costs (see graphic) are in ad­di­tion to the nor­mal monthly costs of se­cu­rity.

The Univer­sity of Cape Town said the to­tal ex­tra se­cu­rity cost was R6 311 246.90 by the end of Jan­uary. The spend­ing was in­flu­enced by the pat­tern of protest ac­tiv­ity at dif­fer­ent times. For ex­am­ple, less money was spent in June 2015.

In De­cem­ber 2015, be­cause of the year-end ex­ams in Novem­ber and sub­se­quent grad­u­a­tion cer­e­monies, there was a need for an in­creased se­cu­rity pres­ence.

“The av­er­age cost per month dur­ing the pe­riod of dis­rup­tion and risk of dis­rup­tion was R2 mil­lion,” the univer­sity said in re­sponse to City Press’ ques­tions.

The Univer­sity of Wit­wa­ter­srand con­firmed that it had spent an av­er­age of R2 mil­lion a month on ad­di­tional se­cu­rity ser­vices from Oc­to­ber 2015 to Jan­uary this year – a to­tal of R8 mil­lion.

“This is, how­ever, not the full and fi­nal amount as the univer­sity is still ne­go­ti­at­ing dis­counts with the se­cu­rity com­pa­nies in­volved, and is in talks with in­sur­ers to cover some of the costs,” it said.

Se­cu­rity com­pa­nies had also been asked to make con­tri­bu­tions to­wards stu­dent bur­saries and food se­cu­rity pro­grammes at the univer­sity, it said.

“We would have pre­ferred to is­sue fi­nal fig­ures, but given the time and le­gal con­straints, this has not been pos­si­ble,” the univer­sity said.

The amount of se­cu­rity per­son­nel var­ied from day to day. On av­er­age, Wits Univer­sity de­ployed up to 200 se­cu­rity of­fi­cials, de­pend­ing on the risk. The level of ser­vices also var­ied, de­pend­ing on the risk.

Fi­delity Se­cu­rity Ser­vices, Dili­gence Ser­vices Group and TSU Pro­tec­tion Ser­vices were the com­pa­nies used dur­ing the months in which protests took place.

The univer­sity said that it was aware of the sig­nif­i­cant cost of the ad­di­tional se­cu­rity. How­ever, the cost of los­ing a life, of po­ten­tial harm to peo­ple, of ma­li­cious dam­age to prop­erty, and of los­ing the 2015 and 2016 aca­demic years, far out­weighed the amount spent.

The Univer­sity of Stel­len­bosch said it did not make use of ad­di­tional pri­vate se­cu­rity ser­vices and/or in­cur ad­di­tional pri­vate se­cu­rity costs be­yond the nor­mal op­er­a­tional (se­cu­rity) costs for the pe­riod from Fe­bru­ary 2015 to Au­gust 2015.

How­ever, ad­di­tional pri­vate se­cu­rity costs were in­curred from Septem­ber 2015 to Fe­bru­ary this year be­cause it be­came nec­es­sary to hire ex­tra se­cu­rity per­son­nel.

These costs amounted to R4.5 mil­lion more than the nor­mal op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity costs.

UJ dis­closed that be­fore the #FeesMustFall move­ment’s 10-day cam­paign in Oc­to­ber, it was spend­ing on av­er­age R3.3 mil­lion a month on se­cu­rity.

From Novem­ber last year, the sit­u­a­tion changed. This was when UJ was com­pelled to con­sider ad­di­tional se­cu­rity mea­sures, which led to the dou­bling of ex­pen­di­ture.

The univer­sity spent R6 mil­lion from Novem­ber 2015 to Jan­uary this year. The to­tal ad­di­tional se­cu­rity cost was R18.8 mil­lion. How­ever, the nor­mal an­nual se­cu­rity cost – from Fe­bru­ary 2015 to Jan­uary 2016 – was bud­geted to be R48.8 mil­lion.

The Cape Penin­sula Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy said its nor­mal an­nual se­cu­rity bud­get of R52.8 mil­lion in­creased by R3.4 mil­lion be­cause of the stu­dent protests from Novem­ber 2015 to Jan­uary this year. The univer­sity ended up pay­ing R56.2 mil­lion.

The univer­sity re­fused to di­vulge which se­cu­rity com­pa­nies it used, cit­ing con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments with its ser­vice providers.


STU­DENT SPRING Po­lice­men pa­trol the Wits Univer­sity cam­pus in Jo­han­nes­burg dur­ing a protest in April against aca­demic ex­clu­sion

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