Security guards conned by student activist hold picket at UCT

Guards ask students for forgiveness and to support their demand to be insourced

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The fired guards and their families gathered at UCT’s upper campus on Tuesday. They asked students to forgive them and support their plea to be insourced. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

  • The 31 security guards who were sacked after they disrupted a June exam gathered with their families at UCT to ask students to forgive them and for their support to be insourced.
  • The guards say they were misguided by student activist Sibusiso Mpendulo, who claimed to be a lawyer and acting in their interests, saying he had won court orders and opened a Hawks investigation.
  • The Hawks has denied this and confirmed that it does not have him on record.

The 31 security guards, who were fired for disturbing a June exam at the University of Cape Town (UCT), have asked students to forgive them.

The guards, their families, and Students Representative Council (SRC) members held a peaceful picket on the university’s upper campus plaza on Tuesday. They want students to support their plea to be insourced by UCT.

On Monday, GroundUp reported on how former student activist Sibusiso Mpendulo had falsely claimed to be the guards’ lawyer, promising to fight for them to be insourced. He then led them to disrupt the June exams, which resulted in the workers being dismissed.

In June 2016, the then Vice-Chancellor Max Price announced that UCT would insource about 1,000 employees in July 2016. But none of these guards, who worked for the Groote Schuur Central Improvement District to patrol UCT, were hired. They say they met the requirements, but UCT had hired guards from outside instead.

More than 400 students were sitting on the plaza steps as worker leader Amos Qwabi explained that it was on Mpendulo’s advice that they went into the exam halls.

He said Mpendulo had told the guards that UCT’s SRC had approved the disruption and they believed him. He said that they paid Mpendulo for years, including paying for his trips to Pretoria, where he claimed he was meeting the Hawks on their behalf.

Qwabi asked students if they forgave them, and students shouted “yes” and clapped their hands.

SRC acting president, Siya Plaatjie, said that the SRC believed in guards’ struggle to be insourced. She recounted the SRC’s strange dealings with Mpendulo.

“To be honest we didn’t see it coming until later, when one of our members who is studying law kept on pointing out a few errors on documents Mpendulo was showing us. He would ask Mpendulo for certain papers and he would respond by saying he left them home or come up with an excuse,” said Plaatjie.

Families speak of hardship

The guard’s families told students about the difficulties they face since their family members lost their jobs.

Nosidima Ndlokolo, 59, said her son Masixole had been taking care of her and three other siblings. “Things are really tough at home. I’m not working, I lost my job during [the lockdown]. My last born is doing grade 12 and was hoping to study next year but I don’t see that happening since Masixole is not working because no one is going to help her with registration money,” she said.

Cebisa Nkumbi from Samora Machel is a mother of three. Since her husband lost his job, their family relies on social grants.

“Every day I pray that UCT does the right thing and hires them. My husband has worked here for close to ten years. He deserves to be insourced,” she said.

Simthembile Qondo, a father of seven children, said all they want is for UCT to insource them, or at least tell them why they had not been hired in previous insourcing rounds.

“If they can tell us what requirements they are looking for so that we can get them. Because on what they posted we are confident that we do qualify,” he said.

Holes in Mpendulo’s Hawks story

We asked Hawks Western Cape spokesperson Zinzi Hani about the case allegedly opened by Mpendulo on behalf of the guards against UCT. As reported, someone purporting to be from the Hawks, a “Detective Tsiya”, contacted the guards and took statements from Qwabi at the Cape Town Central police station.

Hani said denied that Mpendulo could have opened a case in Pretoria, as this matter would have been processed in the Western Cape.

“We do not have any detective by the name of Tsiya in the Western Cape,” she said. It’s unclear if this person works for SAPS.

UCT was contacted for comment on Sunday and Tuesday. Their comment will be added once it is received.

Correction on 2022-10-12 14:18

Jammie steps was changed to plaza steps.

TOPICS:  Labour

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