More traffic chaos as Wits students march to main campus

2015-10-20 19:49
(Jeanette Chabalala, News24)

(Jeanette Chabalala, News24)

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Johannesburg - Protesting Witwatersrand University students caused more traffic chaos on the roads leading to varsity entrances on Tuesday as they marched from the Wits Medical School to the university's main campus. 

The students spent most of Tuesday morning and early afternoon protesting in York Road outside the Wits Medical School.  

Only ambulances were allowed to enter the medical school. Students refused to let a woman who had come to pick up a friend from the cancer ward into the property. 

Students then took part in the march back to the main campus. Singer and songwriter Simphiwe Dana and rapper AKA joined the marchers in solidarity.

As they marched down Empire Road traffic coming from the M1 highway began to build up, with students blocking a road leading into one of the varsity entrances.

Some students were lying in the middle of the road, others deliberately blocked Rea Vaya buses filled with commuters.  

Dana was expected to perform at the main campus, while students were waiting to hear the outcome of a meeting between Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and university vice chancellors on the issue of fee increases on Tuesday.

The protests at Wits started last week when the university announced it intended increasing fees by 10.5% because of rising costs linked to the flagging rand-dollar exchange rate and inflation-related costs.

The university has since offered to suspend the increase. It also asked to negotiate with the Wits SRC and/or student representatives as a matter of urgency.

At a press conference on Tuesday Nzimande said fee increases would be capped at 6% for 2016. But the South African Student Congress and other students rejected the offer, calling for a 0% increase.

The Wits protests were followed by similar protests at the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University, with classes suspended at all three institutions on Monday and Tuesday.

There were protests at Stellenbosch University and the University of Fort Hare and a protest is expected to take place at the University of Pretoria on Wednesday.

The Wits students' protest outside the medical school on Tuesday led to the cancellation of exams scheduled for the same day.

The university now wants the academic programme to be extended into the first week of December because of the disruption caused by the protests. Exams are scheduled to begin in 11 days.

Earlier on Tuesday students threatened to assault journalists for the negative coverage of the protests and pushed and shoved photographers. 

On Monday Wits protesters took to the streets when a proposed meeting with the university's council was called off after students forcefully entered Senate House, where the councillors were meeting.

A vehicle was flipped over on Empire Road on Monday. The driver was reportedly injured and the traffic came to a standstill.

Read more on:    wits university  |  johannesbrug  |  education  |  university fees  |  protests

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