The Solomon Mahlangu building at Wits University has been shut down after an altercation took place between Wits campus security and Wits EFF members.

Key administrative services at Wits University’s Solomon Mahlangu House were shut down on Wednesday, February 24, after an altercation between campus security staff and members of the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC).

Wits SRC’s operations officer and Wits EFFSC member, Kamuhelo Chauke said that Wits EFFSC members spent the night of Tuesday, February 23, inside the building. The EFF student branch is demanding that the university allow students with historical debt to register, and for the university to extend the registration period which is set to end on Friday, March 5. Approximately 8 000 Wits students are at risk of financial exclusion as they owe the institution more than R10 000 in fees. Students who are unable to settle this debt will not be allowed to register for the academic year.

“We spent the night there in defense of students’ degrees because we feel like the university is on a mission to exclude as many students as possible. However, this morning we were met by campus security that came and brutalised comrades and fought us,” Chauke said. 

Wits students and parents were left wandering outside the building after it was shut down. One mother, who did want to be named, came from Standerton in Mpumalanga. She told Wits Vuvuzela that she was frustrated by the closure of the building because today is the last day for her daughter to register for the academic year. 

Her daughter who is a second-year biological sciences student at Wits, was defunded by NSFAS in August 2020, and is unable to register because she owes the university R34 000 in fees. “I don’t know what we will do because today is her last day for registration,” she said.  Some students were directed by campus security officers to Hall 29 for assistance. However, project coordinator in the registrar’s office, Kathryn Pope, told Wits Vuvuzela that the services at Hall 29 were primarily focused on undergraduate registrations.

“We can’t really assist everybody because we need to privilege the people who are supposed to be here for registration. If there’s opportunity, we can [assist] but our primary purpose is to help people that are completing their registration,” Pope said. 

The EFFSC says it will continue with the protest until their demands are met. Campus protection officers told waiting students and staff that the services, which include the fees, financial aid and scholarships offices, are only expected to resume on  Monday, February 1. 

*Attempts to reach Wits communications officer, Buhle Zuma, for comment were unsuccessful by the time of publishing.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits staff and students were left outside Solomon Mahlangu House when operations at the building were halted due to EFFSC protest action. Photo: Alfonso Nqunjana.