Tide turns at Wits

Fewer protesters and fewer disruptions, but student turnout still low

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Two students hold a sit-in in front of a line of police officers at Wits University. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee

There were clashes between protesters and police again on Wits University today but nothing like the violence of yesterday.

More police and fewer protesters resulted in fewer class disruptions. The police clamped down much harder on protesters, the latter having no clear plan of action today.

A substantial portion of the Wits academic staff, over 500, have signed a petition supporting the use of security to prevent disruptions. 

A senior academic at Wits University told GroundUp: “We have had a very quiet day. A few minor skirmishes but nothing serious. All classes going on, albeit very low attendance. This is hardly surprising given the media yesterday. Our sense is that we have now demonstrated that we can run the academic program and we will get the students back into the class.”

In a statement published on its Facebook page this morning, the Wits Students’ Representative Council stated: “Yesterday our campus once again resembled a war zone. As students we have once again been brutalised at the university we call our own. And for what reason? All because we wanted to enter Solomon Mahlangu House, what has come to be the home of the #FeesMustFall protests at Wits. Yesterday we experienced and witnessed the further escalation of violence at Wits University and on the streets of Braamfontein.”

It further stated: ”[F]or [Vice-Chancellor Adam] Habib and the management of the university to insist on opening the campus without any consensus and agreement is grossly irresponsible.” 

All photos by Ihsaan Haffejee.

The police contingent on campus was much larger than yesterday. The police also acted quicker to break up protesters.
Protesters threw stones at police.
And police shot rubber bullets at protesters.
Students watched the battles from their dorm rooms.
A protester hurls a rock at the police while using a dustbin lid for protection.
Protesters gathered at the Great Hall and began singing songs but were quickly dispersed by police. 
A group of protesters got hold of riot gear (helmets and shields) and attempted to attack the police but were quickly dispersed as the police fired rubber bullets.
Police used a water cannon to disperse people gathered at the Great Hall.
Two students were made to lay down on the floor as police moved through the university dispersing protesters.

A correction was made to this article after publication. The Wits petition did not call for “additional” security. It called for “minimal security”.

TOPICS:  Tertiary Education

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