Johannesburg - The newly-elected University of Witwatersrand's Student Representative Council (SRC) cancelled a planned shut down of academic activities shortly before midnight on Thursday.
The Economic Freedom Fighters-led student council said it received a ''plethora of complaints'' immediately after a mass meeting outside the Great Hall, where the decision to embark on a #FeesMustFall protest on Friday, was taken.
"Students residing off campus have expressed concern over [a] calendar extension. Students argue that unlike those [accommodated in university] residences, they would incur additional charges from providers of private accommodation," the SRC said in a statement.
"As an SRC that holds a view that we are mandated by students, we have reached the conclusion that the number of students [that were] present at the mass meeting did not represent a holistic demographic of the university."
The shut down during year-end examinations was not a way to "look after one another", said the student council.
"The decision is final. Students should continue studying in the libraries and computer laboratories in order to fully prepare for exams. The exams will continue as planned."
The EFF Student Command (EFFSC) won the Wits SRC elections last month, taking over from the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), made up of the South African Students Congress (Sasco), African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) and the Young Communist League of SA (YCL). The red berets won 12 out of 15 SRC seats.
Meanwhile, protests against fee increase continued at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of Free State (UFS) this week.
Several UCT students were arrested on Thursday after they barricaded streets in an attempt to shut down the campus.
At Thursday's press briefing, UCT vice-chancellor Max Price said the protests were “utterly unacceptable” in the midst of examinations and ongoing negotiations on fees.
“We worked until after midnight negotiating in order to avoid disruptions. The demands keep expanding with each meeting, some of which do not seem reasonable to us…we cannot meet some of the demands mainly because they are unfortunately out of our control.”
The no fee increase demand would render the university bankrupt as the institution depended on tuition fees to sustain itself, he said.
“What we can do though, is to ensure that students who are on financial aid are not academically excluded. The UCT is fortunately able to raise donor money to ensure that the students on NSFAS and the ‘missing middle’ are not compromised or disadvantaged by the fee increase.”
Another demand by UCT students is that President Jacob Zuma release the Heher commission report on feasibility of free higher education.
Following widespread and sometimes violent protests by students at universities and other higher education institutions around the country, Zuma appointed the commission – chaired by Judge Arthur Heher, assisted by advocate Gregory Ally and Leah Thembisile Khumalo – on January 14, 2016. The commission submitted its report to Zuma in August.
A weekend newspaper leaked the report, which it said showed that government would not be able to fund free education at higher institutions of learning. Zuma promised to release the report this week.