On 11 February UP released a statement in response to the City of Tshwane’s attempt to cut off the electricity supply to Prinshof Campus. The statement reaffirmed the university’s status as “a good corporate citizen”, denouncing the city’s actions. The statement cited the reliance on research equipment, scientific experiments and data centres which could have been compromised by the potential power interruption, deeming the action as a “political grandstanding”.

The university statement was released after the City of Tshwane sent out a tweet expressing their decision to cut off the electricity supply to Prinshof Campus, citing that the university owed them R34 million.

A later tweet by the university acknowledged the outstanding amount had been paid by the university. UP acknowledged that they made the immediate payment to prevent an interruption and had registered a dispute with the council a year ago, adding that they “committed to pay the alleged outstanding amount pending the outcome of the dispute”. It was further stated that UP did not receive a prior notice or a detailed account, alleging that attempts to engage with the city had been ignored.

Following these events, on 14 February, the UP SRC sent out a statement referring to the university’s payment of outstanding debt to the City of Tshwane citing that “given this presentation and portrayal of the aforementioned information, the UP SRC takes great offence to the excuses provided by the institution regarding financial aid, historical debt, the waivering of registration fees and the operational budget and study aid fund of R617 000 of the SRC”. Citing these events, the statement reiterated that the university has a well managed reserve.

The SRC called for four main demands in their communication, namely:

  • the waivering of all undergraduate and postgraduate registration fees
  • an increase in the budget allocated to the SRC study aid fund and operational budget
  • a call for the university to put in a plan of action to address historical debt
  • a call for the UP financial aid to accommodate a larger number of students

PDBY reached out to the Director of Institutional Advancement, Rikus Delport, for comment relating to the statement released by the SRC. “We take note of the statement by the SRC and would like to point out that the money which was paid to prevent the interruption to the power supply did not come from the University’s reserves but from [an] operational budget”, said Delport.

Delport explained that when the dispute was registered with the City Council, the money that was paid to City of Tshwane was already provided for in the university’s 2021 budget. Delport also said that the dispute is a multi-year dispute and that the dispute is declared to be in the best interests of the university, which will benefit students as well.

With regard to financial assistance and financial aid, Delport commented that the university provided up to R500 million in the form of bursaries and financial aid to students in the previous year. Delport continued, “we are doing everything we can to increase our fundraising targets in a declining economy and to ensure that no under-resourced students are left behind”.

This is a developing story. Follow @PDBYMedia for further updates.

Images: Twitter.com.

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Susanna is currently stu(dying) genetics and joined the PDBY team in 2019. She divides her time between writing and playing with plant disease samples. Her contributions span across Science, politics and all things spicy. If you are or were in the SRC, she’s probably spammed you with messages for a story. She’s got a memory like an elephant – so she probably keeps track of student promises. Picture not to scale.

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