Wits to close until Monday

2016-10-04 23:01

(File) (Lizeka Tandwa)

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Watch the moment police open fire on gathered Wits students

2016-10-04 13:44

Stun grenades and tear gas have been used to disperse gathered students at Wits, some of whom have been detained.WATCH

Johannesburg – The University of the Witwatersrand will suspend its academic programme until Monday.

The decision followed discussions with former leaders of the Black Student Society and SRCs, supported by clergy, on Tuesday, the university’s senior executive team said in a statement.

The announcement was made a few hours after an earlier statement in which the university said it would be open on Wednesday. 

“We have made this concession because we do not want the scenes that played out on our university campuses today, to be repeated. 

“Such scenes put our students and staff on edge and do not enable a full resumption of the academic programme. If a negotiated outcome can achieve this end, then we will be all the stronger as a university community,” Wits said.

It agreed to withdraw police to the perimeter of its campuses under the express commitment from all parties that there would be no violence or intimidation of students and staff.

Student leaders and clergy would lead talks between student groups and university management in the hopes of holding a general assembly on Friday. This would be chaired by vice chancellor Adam Habib and try to reach agreement on access to higher education. 

Rubber bullets fired, stones thrown

Wits was “partially successful” in its attempts to resume work on Tuesday, spokesperson Shirona Patel said earlier. The decision to reopen followed a poll among staff and students, who voted overwhelmingly in favour of continuing the academic year.

Police fired rubber bullets and teargas at students when they tried to break a police chain earlier on Tuesday. Some students then threw stones at police. International relations lecturer David Hornsby was injured.

Protesters broke the rear window of a police vehicle. Emergency medical services sources said casualties included police officers and protesters.

A police officer was brought to the emergency room at Milpark Hospital. The sources told News24 that a high-ranking police officer sustained a serious head wound when he was struck by a brick.

Another 12 people - two officers and 10 students - were also injured.

Protecting life and property

Acting national police commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane told reporters in Johannesburg on Tuesday afternoon that destruction of property would not be tolerated. It was not a “clever” way for students to express their frustrations and demands for free tertiary education.

“Police will not stand and clap hands when someone is throwing stones at them. But will still maintain maximum restraint. Part of police mandate is to protect life and property.”

He said police had been reasonable in their approach so far.

UCT Vice Chancellor Max Price said the university would remain open, despite students’ demands that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission-type process first be conducted for expelled, suspended and arrested students.

Talks between the university and student leaders broke down on Sunday over the reopening of the university this week, he told reporters in Cape Town.

Student protesters were adamant on Tuesday that the university should remain closed until a TRC hearing into their grievances had been established.

About 200 protesters marched from UCT's upper, middle and lower campuses on Tuesday to interrupt lectures and express their grievances.

Meanwhile, Gauteng police said 12 students were arrested for public violence after they blocked the entrance to the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus on Tuesday morning. Others ran away when police arrived, Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said.

A small group of protesters gathered at the Durban University of Technology on Tuesday and tried to remove students from classes. They found classes already empty.


Read more on:    uct  |  police  |  wits university  |  johannesburg  |  university fees  |  university protests

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