Tuks staff fear for their safety

22 February 2016 - 22:36 By Karabo Ngoepe
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Staff at the University of Pretoria (UP) say they fear for their safety as violent protests continue at the institution.

Workers said they allegedly received messages on Sunday evening telling them to come to work on Monday despite threats from students that they would be protesting.

The message apparently read, "UP Staff. The university will open tomorrow Monday, 22 February". 

“I cannot believe the university asked staff to work under these conditions,” said an employee who asked not to be named.

“From about 9am [Monday] there have been disruptions in classes and one colleague had her laptop violently ripped away by protesters, while she was lecturing, forcing her to stop.”

But university spokesperson, Anna-Retha Bouwer, said they would not put the lives of students and workers at risk.

Court case postponed

Students at the university have been protesting over the institution's language policy, which has resulted in its closure and at least 27 students being arrested.

Charges against three of them were dropped, leaving only 24 students to stand trial.

They appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Monday, where the case was postponed

The university closed again on Monday following spates of student protests and violence.

The institution said that due to the disruptions, academic activities on the Hatfield campus, lectures and tests that were scheduled, were temporarily postponed.

Black Monday

The source said that there was not sufficient security on the campus to protect staff and students, despite the ongoing interruptions.

“The university knew the EFF had referred to today as Black Monday. They were advised to close for the week, but instead, chose to continue with lectures at the cost of our lives. They knew there was a court case against those protesters today as well, which made things worse,” said the source.

Bouwer said safety was the institution's main concern. “But we also have balance it with the students' right to learn. Suspending academics is the last resort but we do take safety into consideration,” she said.

Bouwer added that security was increased on campus to deal with the protests.

She said the vice chancellor and the university's executive were deeply concerned that the rolling set of demands by protesters was compromising the ability to maintain good governance and management of the university.

“We have implemented additional security measures and we continue to work with the police services to maintain order. We have systems in place to communicate with students and staff, and we will keep all stakeholders informed,” Bouwer said.

The university said it wanted to meet with protest leaders to find a peaceful solution to the current situation.  

Source News 24

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