WSU students left stranded

The Uncedo Taxi Service Association Komani branch stopped transport operations at Walter Sisulu University (WSU) last week following claims of a ‘biased’ tender document and the outsourcing of transport services by the university.

A number of students were stranded after buses failed to arrive at pick-up points on Monday morning. According to Uncedo Komani branch secretary, Thamsanqa Ngcongca, a decision to halt the services was based on the issue of service providers from outside Komani being given permission to transport students in the area. “For the past three years the students were transported by a bus company from East London and, according to our understanding, should be transported by people of Komani – that was the agreement. The tender document was biased. We thought it was time to show our dissatisfaction. We had previously sent three emails to management which were ignored.”

Ngcongca said the university later sent an email, after the protest action, requesting a meeting which was scheduled to take place on Friday, February 7.

“Operations will not continue until we meet with the management. Transport operations will depend on the resolutions taken at that meeting,” added chairman Sandi Mgobo.

Speaking to The Rep, student representative council (SRC) president, Motsi Qoyi said there had been a three-year contract which lapsed late last year. He said after a new tender was advertised, service providers were not happy with the specifications in the tender. “The taxi association submitted their complaints to the SRC and we forwarded them to management.”

Qoyi said the situation caused frustration among students. “Many were supposed to attend to their registration at the Whittlesea campus. This creates frustration because some of them do not have funds to travel. The SRC has advised that registration must continue in Whittlesea while they deal with the problem here. We hope the problem will be resolved.”

Walter Sisulu University spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said the tender WSU issued was in line with industry standards and what other WSU campuses had issued in the past.

“I can confirm that senior executives will meet with the taxi association on February 7. They have the delegated power to engage with the association but can escalate unresolved matters. The high-level delegation cannot engage on the merits of the tender specifications because this would prejudice other bidders. The university must give a fair chance to all bidders who meet the specifications. It is extremely unfortunate that taxi drivers interrupted WSU operations by stopping a bus carrying students and offloading them. This equates to intimidation and breaking the law. We sincerely hope such incidents will not occur again because they violate the laws of our country.” Tukwayo added that such acts negatively impacted on learning and teaching, which was the institution’s core business.

“I cannot pre-empt the discussions but I trust the fair, open and independent manner with which the university operates will be maintained. WSU has always engaged fairly with micro, small, medium and large enterprises from owner-run businesses such as caterers to large construction companies. We look forward to a good and fair engagement with the taxi association,” she concluded.

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