R2K has demanded that the University of Johannesburg comes clean about the contracts and services it has with private security firms.
This comes after eNCA Checkpoint’s explosive report on the use of undercover private security guards hired to ride inter-campus buses at UJ to covertly gather information on student protesters. Checkpoint’s story includes a first-hand account of a guard who says he was hired by Bold Heart Group, the second company contracted to UJ. In an interview with Checkpoint, he stated that he was paid R300 per day, had no contract or payslip, and was paid in cash. He stated that his role was to take notes on conversations on the bus, identify names and faces, and report them to his seniors. UJ confirms that undercover guards were put on buses but denies that UJ authorised the recording of conversations.
This story underscores long-held concerns that universities’ use of private security firms during #FeesMustFall related protests has lacked transparency, accountability, and often led to serious violations of the rights of students and staff. At UJ in particular there have been numerous reports of assaults, threats and intimidation from paid private security. The private security sector lacks democratic accountability; their contracts and terms of engagement are almost always secret, and their methods often been completely unlawful. More and more, as university managements have resorted to private security to militarise campuses, they have become accountable only to themselves, while putting low-paid workers on the front line to manage their crisis for them.
Demand for university transparency on security
The Right2Know has used the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to demand:
- Details of all contracts and agreements between UJ and Fidelity Security Group and Bold Heart Group, as well as all budget and spending.
- Details of any intelligence-gathering operations by the university or its private security, including use of video footage of meetings and protests and briefings by undercover guards.
Under PAIA, UJ and its companies have 30 days to respond. It is outrageous that basic information about the security arrangements has been kept from the University community itself, let alone from the broader public. University contracts should already be open and proactively disclosed.
Demand for action on private security abuses
We call for an immediate end to these private security abuses. The Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) is required by law to regulate private security firms. We call on the Minister of Police and PSIRA to conduct investigations into the conduct of these firms and to deregister them.