Students call off protest at Wits after ‘management met their demands’

A Wits university ‘student’ and administrator have been arrested on charges of fraud and corruption. Picture: Gallo images/Getty images
A Wits university ‘student’ and administrator have been arrested on charges of fraud and corruption. Picture: Gallo images/Getty images

After a week-long protest, the university of the Witwatersrand’s student representative council has called off the hunger strike initiated by the student leaders.

The students said the majority of their demands had been met and will continue to negotiate with the university and government toward the full realisation of fee-free education in the boardroom.

The student council’s president and deputy president told City Press that they were served with notices of suspension from the university's legal office.

They were summoned to a hearing over the protest action, which resulted in the disruption of classes.

Yesterday, a mass meeting held by the student council concluded that all students were to meet at 7am to continue with the protest. A message of support was delivered by member of South African Union of Students, Thabo Shingane, who encouraged the students to continue with the protest. The union had also called for a national shutdown of academic activity in advocating for fee free education. But this morning classes continued at Wits.

Deputy secretary-general of the Wits student council, Thaakirah Savahl, said they had not called off the protest.

“We have not called off the protest; we have put it on hold pending negotiations with Wits management and government. However, we have seen many victories. The university has allowed all students to register if their debt is under R100 000 and they have applied for the hardship fund. The only condition is that their household income is R600 000 or below.

“The hardship fun has been extended till today at 6pm and registration has been extended till next Friday. As for accommodation, the university increased to 240 beds and has committed to find more. These were the two concessions that the student council fought for and we see this as a victory.”

Savahl confirmed that both the president and the deputy had been served with suspension notices.

However the university has disputed this, claiming that neither the president or the deputy president had been suspended.

When asked if the student council had called off the protest action in fear of suspension Savahl denied it.

“This is not true. The student council maintains the line of March that we are the students’ first line of defence. We have been aware of the universities scare tactics and the suspension of our leaders is one of those scare tactics.”

She added that she didn’t believe the student council conceded to pressure from management.

“I don’t believe that we are the ones who have conceded. The students ... had Wits management shaking, so much so that our demands were met. So I don’t understand how we can say that the student council sold out when in fact the past week we’ve been fighting for exactly those non-negotiable concessions.”

While the university continued with the academic calendar, private security and police vans remained on campus.

Savahl didn’t want to “disclose any information” on whether the students had plans to continue with the protest.

Meanwhile students at the University of Johannesburg continued with academic activity after attempts at protest resulted in a violent brawl where on Wednesday police were seen hunting for any student in a red T-shirt as far as the Campus Square shopping centre and towards Westdene residential area.

One student was rushed to Helen Joseph hospital and others were treated for rubber bullet injuries.

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