Update: The university has since vehemently denied claims of any students being assaulted. See the full statement here .
By Masego Panyane and Michelle Gumede
About 60 private security guards were used to evacuate protesting students from Solomon House concourse in an act protesters have called disproportionate
“They moerskonted us to a point where we could not see,” said Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) chairperson Vuyani Pambo.
The students, who are part of the Wits #FeesMustFall movement, have been occupying Solomon House, also known as Senate House, since January 3. The students had said their demands have not yet been met by Wits management and as a result, they would not move.
According to the students, in the early hours of Tuesday, Michael Mahada of Campus Control woke them up and read them a notice signed by Prof Tawana Kupe, deputy vice chancellor for advancement, human resources and transformation. The notice said the students need to evacuate the premises by the end of business on the previous day, Monday, January 11. Campus Control also had in their possession, dossiers on four of the protestors which had pictures and personal information of the students.
The students were given five minutes to leave Solomon House but they refused. The six Campus Control security guards who had been present throughout the night then stepped back and the private security guards, wearing body armour, wielding plastic shields and batons, sprang into action. Two separate groups of security entered the building from two different sides, physically throwing students out of the building and taking their cellphones. See the footage of the eviction here
“In that 30 – 45 minutes, they started locking up the exits but they wanted us to leave,” said one of the protestors, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation.
When questioned, one of the private security guards told Wits Vuvuzela that he was struck on the head with a bottle by one of the students. A protestor claims that this was in self-defence and they started using anything from the dustbins outside Senate House in order to keep the private security guards who had been physically assaulting them at bay.
Students were chased all the way to the parking outside Men’s Res area where they were then cordoned off.
Student protestors also said that female protesters had been grabbed around their breasts by private security guards evicting them from Solomon House.
When asked about this a private security guard responded: “When you are removing people from a space, you are not checking where the lady’s breasts are.”
On SABC’s Morning Live today, Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said that the university cannot be held hostage by twenty odd students.
The university’s senior executive team sent out a statement confirming that students were evicted because they “effectively disrupted the university’s registration process yesterday.” The statement goes on to say the occupation was an infringement of the rights of students who wanted to register and that face to face registration will continue on January 13.