Wits students ‘ready to be arrested’
Johannesburg - Strict access control measures were put in place at Wits on Tuesday morning, with heavy security and police presence in and outside the campus.
A lecture hall which was set alight on East campus during Monday’s violent protests was locked and taped off, with security patrolling around the building.
Chaos broke out at the university’s main campus in Braamfontein on Monday, with students from Wits as well as other varsities brandishing sticks and fire extinguishers as they marched.
They were led by Wits EFF Student Command leaders Vuyani Pambo and Chumani Maxwele, known for his involvement in the Rhodes Must Fall movement, claimed Wits had de-registered students who had not paid their fees.
Pambo said their demands were simple. “We are asking for free education, no exclusions and no suspensions,” he said. ”We are ready to be arrested. When we are called thugs, let us be known as the thugs who stole education.”
But Wits university spokeswoman Shirona Patel denied these claims, saying: “What we’ve done was call students to come and sign up for a payment plan.
“That’s (the de-registration) absolutely not true. No student will be de-registered because they haven’t paid their fees. Out of the 33 000 students, 22 000 are taken care of with bursaries, scholarships, NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme). About 5 000 pay their way... that leaves 5 000 as the missing middle. The SRC (Student Representative Council) is fundraising and we have given them flexible payment options,” she said.
Patel said five Wits students were issued with suspension letters on Monday, with two more expected to be issued with the letters today.
“For some people (suspension letters) say you can go to lectures but are not allowed to be involved in disruptive activities; others are not allowed on campus,” she said.
She condemned Monday’s protest, saying it was “a politically orchestrated campaign with larger national objectives.”
“The individuals who addressed the student groups today were from Wits, other universities in Gauteng, the Western and Eastern Cape and some political parties. The individuals were calling for free education for all now. The university has requested the police to intervene and to arrest the individuals for their criminal behaviour and for contravening a court order that was granted earlier this year,” she said.
Pambo could not be reached for comment on Tuesday morning.
SRC secretary-general Fasiha Hassan said on Monday they supported the “decolonisation movement” although they “don’t condone violence”.
On Tuesday morning, some students said they'd had enough.
“I sympathise with the movement, but what’s the point of destroying lecture halls and stealing fire equipment,” said one student who did not want to be identified.