If we can’t agree, Wits will shut down – Habib

2016-10-06 18:16
Police attempt to arrest activist Mcebo Dlamini on the Wits campus during this week’s protests. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

Police attempt to arrest activist Mcebo Dlamini on the Wits campus during this week’s protests. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

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Wits shut down on the cards

2016-10-06 12:05

University of Witwatersrand vice-chancellor Adam Habib has vowed to shut down campus if the general assembly set to take place on Friday is not fruitful. WATCH

Johannesburg - If consensus is not reached during the general assembly at the University of Witwatersrand on Friday, the institution could be forced to shut down completely, says Vice Chancellor Adam Habib.

"It is not a threat, it is a simple statement of fact that if Wits university is not teaching and is not doing research, then there is no purpose that it be open," Habib told talk radio station 702 during an interview on Thursday morning.

His comments were in response to a question about what would happen if a consensus was not reached during the highly anticipated general assembly.

This was only the 11th general assembly ever held at the institution since 1959, and it would be chaired by retired deputy judge president Dikgang Moseneke, in his capacity as the university’s chancellor.

The only time general assemblies were called was when there were issues of national importance which Wits wanted to stamp its position on, with the hopes of helping to address and assist the country, Habib said.

"There’s specially selected areas of national concern and, in those times, we convene as a collective university."

Habib said it was not a debating platform, but a very formal one, preceded by negotiations which were taking place during the week.

He hoped that that all members of the Wits community would arrive at a consensual position which could be pronounced to the country and the world.

Three weeks of protests

The decision to hold a general assembly was made on Tuesday, following about three weeks of protests by students across the country calling for free quality higher education.

Violence broke out on several campuses in different provinces, leaving some students injured and others arrested.

At Wits in particular, 11 students, a handful of police officers and some journalists were injured when chaos broke out on the main campus on Tuesday.

This was after the university had resolved to reopen the campus amid high levels of security, but they were met with intense resistance from Fees Must Fall protesters who demanded that the institution remain closed until their issues were sufficiently addressed.

Wits alumni, such as Advocate Dali Mpofu, and other Wits academic staff who were in support of the students then stepped in and offered to mediate negotiations between the university and the students.

Among those set to address the assembly on Friday are Moseneke, Habib, president of the 2016 student representative council, Kefentse Mkhari, as well as the University of Cape Town’s Vice Chancellor in Research, Mamokgethi Phakeng, in her capacity as the president of convocation.

Wits has emphasised how exceptionally rare it is to call a general assembly.

"It is an extraordinary event, convened on only the gravest of occasions," Wits has said.

The theme of this assembly is "the principle of higher education and how the Wits community approaches it".

Read more on:    wits  |  adam habib  |  johannesburg  |  university fees  |  university protests

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