JOHANNESBURG: Protesting students at Wits called vice-chancellor Adam Habib a “sinner” who should not be allowed on the “holy premises” of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church after jailing one of their leaders, Mcebo Dlamini.
This comes after eminent individuals, including former public protector Thuli Madonsela, and founding general secretary of Cosatu Jay Naidoo, were set to meet the students in a bid to strike a peace accord at the troubled institution.
The peace accord, called by Wits academics, was arranged as a mass meeting in the Holy Trinity Catholic Church to launch dialogue for unity and coalition-building to fund and save all public universities in South Africa.
But when students entered the church, they discovered that Habib was among those with whom they would be interacting. Habib’s presence prompted a commotion among the students gathered inside the church, with some opting to leave and emotions running high.
They chanted “Habib Must Fall” and sang a vernacular song, “I hate Habib”.
One of the student leaders, Busisiswe Seabe, said Habib had all along ignored students pleas to remove police officers on campus, but was surfacing at a peace accord meeting without their invitation.
“We will not be ambushed by Habib at our own meeting. Habib is a sinner and should not be at the church’s grounds,” Seabe said.
“His first line of march must be to Sun City (Johannesburg Correctional Services Centre) to release Mcebo. We will not allow him to speak. He and management must leave.”
Dlamini, a former Wits Student Representative Council president and #FeesMustFall leader, was arrested at his Wits residence in the early hours on Sunday.
Habib had to leave the church quietly via a back door.
Habib said he and his management team had been invited to the meeting by the Academic Staff Association of Wits University, the Holy Trinity Church and religious leaders.
“We are disappointed that people felt that we should exit the peace meeting even after we had been invited to attend it,” Habib said in a statement.
“We remain committed to working with students and student leaders in trying to find solutions to issues, many of which can only be resolved at the national level. We recognise that passions are inflamed and that we should not take the reactions of some student leaders personally.”
The peace accord meeting was moved from the Holy Trinity Church to Solomon Mahlangu House on campus as the church was too small to accommodate the large group of students. – ANAs