A group of Wits academic staff have signed a petition requesting the Wits vice chancellor to withdraw the suspension of seven Wits students and EFF members. 

By the end of the day yesterday, over 35 signatures were added to a petition by Wits academic staff calling on the vice chancellor (VC), Professor Adam Habib, to reinstate seven suspended Wits students. The students were suspended last week as a result of their involvement in the disruption of a SRC election debate in the Great Hall.

Zimitri Erasmus, associate professor in Sociology, who started the petition, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “the most important part of the request is that the VC is more mindful about the ways he uses his power and authority”.

The petition indicated that while the group condemned the events of last week’s disruption, it was concerned with the way in which the disruptions were handled. “Given both the fragility of this moment at Wits, and the widespread perception that the VC’s response to student activism thus far has been repressive, a more peaceable or amicable approach on the part of the VC would be, in our view, more conducive to transformation and more supportive of cultivating a democratic ethos.”

In response, Habib said the academics who have signed the petition have every right to do so.

“However, I am surprised that they have chosen to take a public stance and to draw conclusions without having all the facts at their disposal,” he added.

Habib explained that he provided “further details of the threats and the actions with which Council Executive committee was confronted and explained why it was necessary to take the action that we did. The safety and security of our staff and students is paramount and the executive management and executive committee has taken the responsibility for this and acted accordingly”.