Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement on Monday regarding the university fee increments for 2017 has sparked protests under the Fees Must Fall movement on various university campuses in the country. Here is a roundup of what has occurred at Wits University this morning.
Thirty one Wits students were arrested and taken to Hillbrow police station this morning for allegedly blocking the entrances of the university: main campus, Yale Road and the Empire Road.
Mduduzi Zondo, Hillbrow police station spokesperson, said that the students were “contravening a court interdict” which stated that students were not allowed to block entrances to the university.
Alongside the Wits students, a journalist for the online publication, Daily Vox, was arrested but released soon after.
After the students were arrested, the protesters moved to the Chamber of Mines building on West Campus, to urge fellow students to join them. They then went on to the Wits Art School where they called on students to join the protest.
The protesters then barged through the barricades of the university’s Jorisson Road entrance and the police shepherded them to the exit on Jan Smuts Avenue. For a while, they blocked both directions of Jan Smuts Avenue before police fired stun grenades to disperse them. They then proceeding to the Education Campus.
As early as 6am, some protesting students had also occupied York Road, which leads to the Charlotte Maxeke hospital. The students were asked by head of student housing, Rob Sharman to make way for patients being transported to the hospital. Police also asked the students to evacuate the road, and then fired stun grenades at them.
Once the students who had marched from main campus got near the Education Campus, they asked the police to allow them to proceed with their protest as it was non-violent. Students raised up their hands and showed their student cards as a plea to the police to continue with their march.
The police then fired more stun grenades at the students because they were occupying public property and disrupting traffic. The police asked the students to move inside the education campus. The students told Wits Vuvuzela that they were planning to move to the Hillbrow police station and thereafter, the university’s main campus.
In a statement, the Wits senior executive team said: “We have reports that about 200 students in roving groups are moving from campus to campus disrupting classes in Braamfontein and Parktown and intimidating students. We are deploying security and the police to follow the group and we are monitoring the situation on camera from the Joint Operations Centre. Students will be arrested if they do not comply with police orders. If lectures are disrupted, we ask students and lecturers to leave the venue and then to resume classes once the group has moved on.”
There is still a heavy police presence around all Wits campuses, and a police helicopter has been patrolling above Braamfontein throughout the morning.