POLITICAL organisations involved in a brawl during the Wits SRC election debate on Tuesday have proclaimed their innocence and are pointing fingers at one another for starting the violence.
The 2015 SRC elections debate was scheduled to happen at lunch time in the Great Hall. One by one the parties entered the Great Hall in song and dance, but the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) singing never stopped and they refused to leave the stage. They were calling for the Vice Chancellor, Adam Habib, to meet and address their numerous concerns. The debate was called off and this subsequently led to other party members, including Project W and the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), going on stage to confront Wits EFF and a violent brawl broke out.
Project W members were also sighted in the scuffle. Thami Pooe, Project W candidate, told Wits Vuvuzela that his party merely wanted the debate to continue.
“We intervened on stage so we could plead with the Wits EFF guys to remove themselves from the stage and we found ourselves being drawn into the violence,” said Pooe.
He said that Project W had requested beefed up security prior to the debate and accused the university of failing in this regard.
Pooe complained on Twitter that Project W was harassed and bullied on the day. “An attempt at anarchy will never stifle us! We must redo the Great Debate!” Pooe tweeted.
WITS EFF member Koketso Poho defended his organisation and said they were attempting to have a peaceful protest before they were attacked by Project W.
Wits Vuvuzela has contacted several PYA members and candidates but none were able to comment.
One PYA supporter @MolefeNthabs tweeted on her account denying the PYA were violent.
“But those students who were at the Great Hall will not be sold lies, @WitsPYA didn’t fight anyone, they just happened to be next to a fight,” she tweeted.
“We were civil,” said Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (Daso) campaign manager, Simphiwe Mbonani. He told Wits Vuvuzela that their party was utterly disappointed by the commotion caused, specifically by the Wits EFF.
“They were up on stage busy protesting [and] singing and they didn’t want to give students a chance to actually listen to why they should vote for DASO or any other candidates,” said Mbonani.
Daso is calling for the disqualification of all the candidates who were involved in the clash.
Students’ reactions on social media showed disapproval towards the violence. One tweet read, “This is definitely not how FUTURE LEADERS BEHAVE! COMPLETELY SHOCKED. #WitsSRCElections”
The university has released a statement in response to the violence saying that Wits University will not allow any individual or party to compromise the safety and security of staff and students and will act swiftly, within the university’s processes and rules, to end any illegal behaviour.
A video of the abandoned debate and ensuing fight is available on the WitsVuvuzela.com.