Sharon Seretlo, Gallo Images
The Student Union of South Africa (SAUS) is expecting students and university management to be at "loggerheads" at the start of the next academic year because of mandatory vaccination policies, which could lead to violent protests, SAUS president Yandisa Ndzoyiya told a joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation and the Portfolio Committee on Police on Friday.
"We've been saying to USAF [Universities South Africa] there must be a way to engage students on the vaccine. Of course, as the union, we want to encourage students to take the vaccine because when they save their own lives, they save other people's lives," he said.
"But how universities are doing it, already a number of institutions, through their councils, through their senate meetings, they have resolved on mandatory vaccines. And students, when they leave those meetings, they feel excluded because they are not thoroughly engaged. And that is going to lead to some violent protest because we are going to have a situation where students are protesting, and university management wants to proceed with registration because they don't want to lose academic time."
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SAUS blamed student protests on a breakdown of engagement between students and university management and said they turned violent when the police got involved.
"As the union, we strongly believe that management sometimes runs away from engagements through using security services to just disengage with students. As a result, that leads to violent protests," Ndzoyiya said.
"There is no student or student leader who enjoys being on the street. I think you know this, chair."
Student leaders get to the street when they feel they are not being heard. After the collapse of engagement, university management will then employ security services, be that private security or SAPS. Now, the problem with the security forces employed, they don't have a political understanding of the situation on campus.
He said SAUS disagreed with the destruction of property.
"But of course, we must also send the blame to university management by lacking to engage student leaders."
He proposed that universities must put stringent policies in place to deal with the destruction of property decisively.
READ | Student protests: Austerity, higher education and a spectacular failure of imagination
The committees were concerned by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority's (PSiRA) presentation, which stated that higher learning institutions contracted private security companies because of the police's delayed response.
The security companies must then engage in crowd control, which was beyond their scope of work, as only the police's public order unit may exercise crowd control.
National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole said there was a need for a campus security summit.
He also said the police needed to introduce community sector policing to link all the tertiary institutions.
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said there were always student protests at the start of the academic year. The police's Crime Intelligence must release early warnings of such events, she said.
"We should not be caught off guard every year."We want to hear your views on the news. Subscribe to News24 to be part of the conversation in the comments section of this article.