Vice-chancellor Habib defends use of private security at Wits
University of Witwatersrand Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib has defended a decision to bring a private security company onto campus during student protests last week.
Hiring a private security company gave the institution more operational control on campus, he said in an open letter to his colleagues on Monday.
The university would have needed a court order to get public order police onto the campus. Once they were there, one could not limit their operations or influence their strategies, he said.
This was not the case with private security. The institution had even insisted that no guns be used in any of its campus operations, he said.
"For those who were worried about this arrangement, would they have preferred that we brought the public order police onto campus immediately? Would that not have allowed for the use of rubber bullets and other actions as have happened in other university settings in recent weeks?" Habib asked.
Members of the "Fees Must Fall" protested on the campus last week during registration for first-year students. Registration came to a halt and students were urged to register online.
This put poor students at a disadvantage.
"Forcing us to cancel face-to-face registration adversely affected the poorest of those who wanted to register. Online registration enabled the middle and upper middle classes to continue with the process. They have online facilities and they have credit cards.
"But the old man from Limpopo, who scraped whatever monies he could raise from family, friends and his community to ensure that his grandson registered, was severely impacted," Habib said.