Habib acted in bad faith by calling off Wits general assembly - student leaders

2016-10-07 14:38
Professor Adam Habib (Picture: Supplied)

Professor Adam Habib (Picture: Supplied)

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Johannesburg - The decision to put the highly anticipated general assembly at Wits on hold was an act of bad faith and an attempt to cause division among students, student leaders said on Friday.

"As students, we are extremely disheartened by what has just happened in the vice chancellor’s press conference," one of the #FeesMustFall leaders, Anzio Jacobs, said on Friday.

"The university is blatantly lying when they say that students refused to engage, that students refused to find a way forward, that students are not willing to go ahead with the academic programme. That is all concessions students would have made, pending an engagement with the university."

Jacobs was addressing reporters shortly after Vice Chancellor Adam Habib officially announced that the general assembly, which was expected to begin at 11:00, had been postponed after management could not agree on a number of issues.

Habib had told reporters earlier that, despite engagement through mediators with protesting students, all attempts had been unsuccessful.

"A congregation of the general assembly is called when the university community has reached consensus on a particular issue. In this case, there has been no consensus from all constituencies and no agreement from the protesting students that the academic programme will continue on Monday," he said.

'Extra mile'

He said it had come to the university’s attention that the students were still standing by their call that Wits and other universities be shut down until government agreed to free education.

Based on their interpretation, this call meant students wanted "free education now, or no schooling at all", he said.

He added that the parties also could not agree on the format of the general assembly.

"They are seeking direct engagement from the floor. Our concern in this regard is that it may create unnecessary tension between students themselves and other stakeholders, raising security risks and serving as a symbol of disunity for the university."

He said there was also an added risk for the safety and security of those attending the general assembly.

Wits SRC secretary general Fasiha Hassan told News24 on Friday that Habib’s decision had been made in bad faith and proved to the student body that the university was not willing to join them in the fight that they were claiming to support.

"When he unanimously on his own decides that this general assembly can’t sit, he decided ultimately that he is not willing to go that extra mile," Hassan said.

'Everyone must act in good faith'

"It is easy to say we support the call, but when your students ask you to join them on the picket line for something that you agree on, and then you cancel the general assembly, one that we are all prepared for and ready for, why because we want to move forward.

"It is not fun to be shot at; it is not fun to choke on teargas - that is not what we want - we want to move forward," she said.

Hassan said she and other student leaders had been engaging with the student body until the early hours of the morning, trying to convince students to allow the general assembly process to take place.

"Yesterday we sat in an eight-hour meeting convincing students, agreeing on the declaration, agreeing on the pledge, and yet here we are with nothing. After we went out on a limb, with our reputation as student leaders, yet [they claim] we are not acting in good faith, we are here in good faith," she said.

"We can walk into the general assembly now, we are ready, we are willing to do that, but we also need an understanding that everyone must act in good faith," she said.

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Read more on:    wits  |  university fees  |  university protests

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