Violent clashes between students and police mar the first day of lectures at Wits University after the shutdown.

There were clashes between protesters and police on the Great Hall piazza earlier today. eNCA reported that police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and teargas at the protesters after some of the students started pelting them with rocks and bottles.

Throughout the day, the police had been using these tactics to disperse protesters. Police had advanced on the students, pushing them back towards the entrance on Bertha Street. Students retaliated by throwing rocks at the police and private security.

Fasiha Hassan, the SRC Secretary General, said the students were merely trying to hold a meeting when the police started firing at students.

Speaking to the media on eNCA,  Hassan said that she hoped there weren’t any provocateurs among the students. 

“Comrades‚ high morale‚ high discipline. There is no need for us to have a warzone on campus. We will not have Habib’s Marikana‚” she said.

Flowers been placed in cartridges of rubber bullets on the great Hall steps. A stun grenade also has flowers #wits @WitsVuvuzela

There was a tense moment when a male student who was not part of the protest, got onto the Great Hall steps holding up a placard that read: “Keep Wits Open – it is my democratic right to an education too. Stop the violence”.

A female protester pounced on him and tore up the placard. A Wits staff member ushered him to safety.

According to a statement released by the university’s management, two students were arrested this morning, while one student and one staff member were injured. There were also reports that police had attempted to arrest protest leader and former SRC president, Mcebo Dlamini, but he escaped when students started throwing rocks.

Wits management said that it has tried to engage with student leaders but the leaders refused to engage.