Protests must fall, say three varsities

(Karabo Ngoepe, News24)
(Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

Cape Town - Three Gauteng universities had secured interdicts by Friday to stop the protests that hampered registration for the 2016 academic year.

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), University of Pretoria, and Unisa had battled stop-start registrations from Monday as last year's #FeesMustFall protests threatened to resurface.

Judge Lebogang Modiba granted Wits an order in the High Court in Johannesburg. It was against six individuals, with a seventh respondent described as: "Participants in protest action engaged in unlawful activities".

The interim order interdicted anyone from occupying buildings, disrupting normal activities, interfering with or assaulting people, damaging property, inciting violence, and carrying weapons on campus.

Wits said it and government had made many concessions to students in the past months, including not increasing fees, and allowing delayed payment for the first instalment of fees.

The parties had until 10:00 on February 1 to say why the order should not be made permanent.

The university said it had deployed extra security and would call in the police if necessary. "Legitimate" protests were allowed.

The University of Pretoria had also obtained an interdict and was only open for staff on Friday. They left early because of ongoing protests and threats of violence. It said it supported the right to protest peacefully, but would not tolerate threats of violence and disruption to academic activities.

Unisa secured a similar interdict on Thursday and was distributing it on Friday. It believed protests at its Pretoria campuses were driven by the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC).

Five student movements distanced themselves from the EFFSC protests, saying they were trying to drum up support ahead of Student Representative Council elections.

The five - the DA Students Organisation, SA Students Congress, Pan African Students Movement of Azania, the Young Communists League of SA, and the African National Congress Youth League - wanted Unisa to deal with outstanding applications, allow students to register for free, provide study material immediately after registration, and clear all students’ debt.

They wanted the university to focus on these issues, rather than the ''imaginary'' ones the EFFSC was raising.

In October last year, students protested against fee increase for 2016, and called for university education to be completely free.

A group of protesters tried to storm into Parliament in Cape Town and, after a number of crisis meetings, President Jacob Zuma announced that there would be no fee increase.

This week, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced that R16bn would be made available to support tertiary education.

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