Wits Legal Office bails students out of holding cells when they get arrested, even though they are not legally obligated to do so.
The legal office particularly assists students whose parents and guardians live far away. This practice has received mixed signals from Witsies though.
Some Witsies told Wits Vuvuzela they were upset there was a budget for bailing students out when many students faced financial difficulties.
“I find the bail thing very, very weird. Bail is a personal thing. There are so many students who are struggling financially and there are other needs such as fixing buildings,” said Nyakallo Motloung, 2nd year BADA.
“People don’t have the cash and you could get arrested if you are innocent.”
On the other hand, Stu Watt, 3rd year BA Fine Art, said he thought it was a fantastic thing: “Ja, it is good. People don’t have the cash and you could get arrested if you are innocent.”
Wits Legal Office response
According to Wits Legal Office adviser Tasneem Wadvalla, the practice of bailing out Witsies is rare.
“If it’s our student and we can assist, we assist. That is what you need to know. We are here to assist students in so far as possible.”
Wadvalla said the reason the legal office assisted students with bail was that students did not have the money to cover bail.
“We do not judge the merits of that basis, we are not saying ‘yes, by us assisting you, you are not
“We don’t delve into the issue. We don’t go into that detail. It is simply assisting our students in so far as possible.”
The legal office also steps in to verify that students do in fact belong to the Wits community. This verification assists with reflecting that students are not a flight risk.
Ruth Hopkins, a senior journalist at the Wits Justice Project, recently wrote an article in The Star that focused on the conditions in holding cells for prisoners awaiting trial and about abusive police officers.
“For the university to assist students with bail is actually fantastic. This is because there is much corruption in the justice system and the conditions of holding cells are appalling,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins’s article highlighted how many of the police service’s arrests are unjustified and random. It described how Steven Mothao was randomly stopped by the police and taken to a holding cell for no apparent reason.
“While onlookers gawked, the police officers slammed Mothao into a police van.
“The police officers never identified themselves, they did not have an arrest warrant and and they did not inform Mothao of the reasons for his arrest.”