A group of concerned parents failed in their legal bid yesterday to force NMMU to reopen its doors, discipline protesting students and get more security on campus.
Acting Grahamstown High Court Judge Margeaux Beard dismissed the application by Concerned Association of Parents and Others for Tertiary Education at Universities (Captu), which had requested the court to force the beleaguered university to resume all academic activities within 48 hours.
In a groundbreaking judgment, Beard said the court should defer to the university’s judgment on the appropriate steps to be taken by it in response to the shifting circumstances of fee protests.
Captu had argued that the university had a duty to take certain steps to ensure that the contract between itself and students could be given effect.
The students had paid their fees; the university should deliver an education.
It contended that this required a tougher approach, including beefing up security and disciplining protesters acting unlawfully.
But Beard found she was not in a position to second-guess NMMU’s decisions and impose on it in perpetuity a particular response to protests.
“Unless the decisions taken by the [university] are unreasonable and would never [achieve] their stated goal – the completion of the 2016 academic programme – I should defer to the decisions made by those with greater expertise in dealing with unfolding events.”
She said the closure of the campus due to the university’s not being able to guarantee the safety and security of staff and students had not been unreasonable.
NMMU had blown its security budget to the tune of R1-million for additional security, had engaged in mediation with all stakeholders, adopted alternative teaching methods and redesigned assessment tasks.
She dismissed the application and ordered Captu to pay the costs, including two counsel.
NMMU said: “The ruling reaffirms the university’s belief that it had done all it could to meet its obligation towards the completion of the academic year.
Captu committee member Robert Griebenow expressed surprise at the court’s ruling.