Pretoria - The student leadership at the University of the Witwatersrand has accused management at the institution of handling negotiations in bad faith after refusing to let suspended student leaders be part of the discussions to end campus strife.
On Wednesday, the Wits SRC held a media briefing and said it was willing to halt their protest over fees and accommodation for 24 hours on condition that the institution removed private security guards and police officers from the campus and lifted the suspension of six students, including its own president.
According to suspended SRC president Aphiwe Mnyamana, SRC members who were not among those suspended by the university, also demanded that the university include suspended student leaders in Thursday’s negotiations.
However, the university has rejected the request.
Following the university’s refusal, the negotiations did not take place, as they would have been conducted in bad faith, said Mnyamana.
“This divide-and-conquer strategy devised by a management that lacks foresight was to no avail, as SRC refused to legitimise the unjust suspension and removal of the current sitting president of the Wits SRC, and thus they were unwilling to sit in negotiations premised on bad faith.
“We will not stand for any attack on the voices of students and their first line of defence… As the SRC, it is our electoral and statutory duty to not give up on perusal of the best interests of the student body,” he said.
Meanwhile, university spokesperson Shirona Patel said students and the university had agreed to de-escalate the situation and continue with engagements to try to resolve matters.
“We will continue with talks as we try to find a way forward. For now, the blended approach to teaching and learning will continue… We will keep you updated on any major developments as they occur.”
Mnyamana accused Patel of misleading the public with her statement.
“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told… Stop misleading the public,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures.” @WitsUniversity Stop misleading the public. https://t.co/NDomm82FoD pic.twitter.com/WtOxLTL3FM— WITS_SRC_President (@AphiweMnyamana) March 9, 2023
The striking students are demanding that the university provide accommodation to those who are homeless or cannot afford residence fees.
They are also insisting that students with no more than R150 000 in historical debt be allowed to register for the current academic year.
Students have vowed to continue protesting until their demands are met.