Johannesburg - After engaging in long meetings, University of the Witwatersrand students decided to take their protest to the streets in Braamfontein. However, they were immediately stopped by heavily armed police and were told they needed permission to take their protest to the streets.
The students tried to plead their way through but a police officer told them their protest was illegal and their leadership should have made proper arrangements beforehand.
“This year’s leadership is not organised, it’s like we don’t know what we are doing,” said one of the students who seemed annoyed by the developments.
Some students decided to sit on the ground and open their books at the main entrance of the campus.
“We can’t allow police to bully us, all we want is to study and they are denying us that right, they should leave us alone to study,” said one of the students who sat defiantly in the ground.
Meanwhile, some of the students continued to protest at the main entrance, singing struggle songs and also expressing their anger at police.
“If we are wrong, history will judge us, but these same police will want their kids to study at this university for free,” said one of the student leaders.
Earlier, students continued to protest inside the campus and had also mobilised workers to join them.
The campus had been overflowing with a heavy police presence since morning. Some police officers were even seen patrolling the grounds on horseback.’
After singing and marching around campus, the students were locked in a series of meetings and were still refusing the media to be part of their discussions. But, word circulating around campus was that they were discussing whether to continue protesting or seek other options.
The students were separated into two groups, one which included the general student body and the other a the student leadership.
Tawana Kupe, Wits vice chancellor, condemned Tuesday’s violent clashes between security guards and students which led to damage to the entrance of the Great Hall.
It was reported that the private security company had since been removed from campus.
The students have been protesting since Monday after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s announced that SA universities could increase fees for 2017, provided it did not exceed the eight percent threshold.
Nzimande announced that tertiary education institutions across South Africa were now permitted to individually determine the level of their 2017 fees increase that their institutions required.
“There are many students from upper middle class and well-off families, as well as students on full company bursaries in our institutions who can afford to pay the adjusted 2017 fees, and we expect them to do so,” Nzimande said at a media briefing in Pretoria.
“To ensure that such inflation-linked fees adjustments on the 2015 fees baseline are affordable to financially needy students, government is committed to finding the resources to support children of all poor, working and middle class families – those with a household income of up to R600 000 per annum – with subsidy funding to cover the gap between the 2015 fee and the adjusted 2017 fee at their institution,” said Nzimande.
Nzimande later condemned the students’ actions and said students must protect and preserve institutions of academic excellence and not destroy learning facilities
“It is most disturbing to see such violent protests inflamed by rogue elements after wide consultation was undertaken on the measures announced this week to address the ongoing issue of university fees,” Nzimande said in a statement on Tuesday.
But the leadership of the #FeesMustFall movement at Wits has said the fight for free education was not over and they would not allow the university to resume until they had secured free education.
“We want to protest until the government hears us,” she said.
Several students were arrested following earlier clashes with police.