A contracted catering business and supermarket in the University of Fort Hare’s student centre in Alice were unceremoniously chucked out following an allegation that the premises were being used as a student drinking hole.
Lwazi Rotya, a lecturer in the UFH history department and owner of 9Iger Trading, and Thembela Malotana of Mesranix, who respectively operate a supermarket and catering business in the student centre on the campus, were given hours to vacate the premises in November 2019.
Their contracts were cancelled after acting UFH deputy registrar: governance & legal services, Loyiso Godongwana, accused them of selling liquor in contravention of their appointment to render the respective services to university students.
After he gave the businesses hours to vacate the premises, the university bolted the doors and welded them shut.
The business owners obtained an urgent interdict in the Bhisho high court against the university on December 4.
However, they were back in court on December 13, obtaining an order for the sheriff of the court to remove all padlocks and welding on the doors of the student centre, after the university kept the facility shuttered.
The campus administration claimed it was simply applying the policy that activities such as the student centre should only operate during the academic term.
In January, the court proceedings were postponed sine die (indefinitely) after documents went missing from the court file in the case.
In his letter to Mesranix, Godongwana wrote: “The university has established that you are selling alcohol to the students of the university. This is in contravention of the terms of your appointment, as you were appointed to render catering services.”
Godongwana wrote that UFH viewed the alleged breach in a serious light, given that no alcohol was allowed on campus in the light of the number of violent incidents that occurred at the university.
The available court papers provide little further information on the allegation regarding the sale of alcohol to students on the campus.
In his court submission responding to Godongwana’s claim, Rotya said it was “mysterious and bizarre” how the university came to attribute a third party’s actions or conduct to the businesses.
On the issue of keeping the premises padlocked despite the December 4 court order giving the businesses access to the student centre, UFH vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu said the university had officially closed its residences on November 15 which, in effect, meant all activities around the campus wound down from this date.
He said as far as the university understood the December 4 order, it did not mean UFH had to change its policies so tuck-shops could stay open beyond the time frames of the academic year.
Ordering the sheriff to break the padlocks on the property amounted to anarchy, Buhlungu said.
BY: RAY HARTLE