9 February 2018

South Africa: UCT SRC President 'Made Up' Housing Crisis Claims - SRC Members

UCT Student Representative Council (SRC) members have denounced claims made by SRC president Karabo Khakhau that there was a housing crisis at the university.

Khakhau claimed on Monday that the university had over-allocated spaces in residences, which resulted in many students having to find private accommodation instead.

But SRC members said the comment was fabricated.

"That was made up by the president - that's the truth. Our president likes it when the media calls her and she gets very excited. The executive is being disbanded," said SRC member Christopher Logan.

During a meeting attended by five other members at the SRC offices on Thursday, the SRC member in charge of residences and housing, Mthobisi Mngomezulu, said there is no housing crisis.

It was also made clear that they know nothing of the website www.digsconnect.co.za, promoted by Khakhau to assist students with private accommodation.

Khakhau had mentioned the website to News24 on Monday. The company was also mentioned on the SRC's Facebook page.

"It would be foolish to say, as the SRC, that students should forget about a university residence which charges them R3 500 and move to a residence that will charge you R5 000," said SRC member Masixole Mlandu.

"It is creating a platform out of the vulnerability of students and we reject it."

'There is no crisis'

It was also alleged that Khakhau was promoting her own interests.

"The university was troubled because there is no crisis. We have had emergency meetings on this topic. People are promoting their friends and private business. It's corruption," Logan told News24.

DigsConnect founder Gregory Keal said that the company does not charge students to use their platform and does not generate an income.

Khakhau denied the allegations, stating that DigsConnect is an SRC initiative which originated in 2014 as a solution to "the perennial housing crisis that the university faces".

Keal and Khakhau have both confirmed that a potential partnership between the SRC and DigsConnect were tabled before the vice chancellor's office.

She also claims that three opportunities were provided to SRC members to give feedback on the initiative, which they failed to do.

Khakhau said the allegations of corruption and nepotism were completely false.

"It is a patronising act to myself and my office, therefore rendering it defamation of character," she said.

She also expressed her dissatisfaction with the "attempt to topple a woman-led SRC".

Residences only '86% full'

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said that the university was aware of only 80 students, who were made accommodation offers, but who were yet to be placed.

"Although the 80 students are yet to be placed, residences are only 86% full and there are still approximately 900 places available.

"This does not in any way point to a struggle to provide accommodation, nor an accommodation crisis," he said.

UCT has residence capacity of 6 800, plus an additional 380 beds at two leased private residences.

The university accommodates approximately 25% of its student population in their residences.

"The university's student housing department is working as speedily as possible to ensure that the outstanding 80 students with residence offers are placed," said Moholola.

He added that, while he had heard that the SRC was apparently disbanding, he had no information and could not confirm further details.

Source: News24

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