While some are attending online classes, protesting students still have their proverbial boots on the ground as the #WitsShutdown drags on.
Protesting students were joined by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union affiliated workers picketing in front of the heavily guarded Wits Great Hall on Monday, March 6.
The Great Hall piazza has been stage to increased tensions over the last few days, which saw projectiles including bricks and stones, flung from either side of the picket line. Most recently students trying to gain entry to the admin block were shoved and pepper sprayed by security officers.
SRC’s attempt to ‘fetch’ VC
A group of students protested outside the Wits VC, Zeblon Vilakazi’s house in Parktown at around 22:00 on March 6, 2023, to pressure the university to meet outstanding demands. The protesters accused the vice chancellor of being “arrogant” and not taking their plight seriously after he refused to meet them, he was on campus at the time and agreed to meet with the SRC at a time yet to be confirmed.
In a statement, the university said: “Following our engagement with the SRC, and further correspondence, the SRC has rejected the concessions presented today. Instead… about 200 students, led by the SRC, chose to march to the Vice-Chancellor’s home, and some threatened to burn it down.” The SRC denied the threat.
“We will not put our arms down until our students are registered,” said Kabelo Phungwayo, the Wits SRC Treasurer General who said that he was left bruised after security guards assaulted him while protesting on Monday morning.
Deadlock after concessions
Wits has made some concessions including the waiving the R10 000 first fee payment for students applying for accommodation, and the provision of free data for all students from April 1, 2023. Speaking at a mass meeting on Sunday evening SRC president, Aphiwe Mnyamana said that they “will remain resolute” until all their demands are met.
Remaining demands include the allocation of additional beds for homeless students, scrapping of the R45 000 National Student Financial Aid Scheme accommodation cap, allowing indebted students to graduate and the lifting of suspensions.
The university says many of these demands are simply unaffordable, the NSFAS shortfall for instance requires some R86 million.
In a statement issued over the weekend, the minister of higher education, science and technology, Blade Nzimande said urgent meetings over the cap would take place in the coming days. Along with this, “price collusion by landlords”, would be investigated.
Karabo Matloga, the Wits SRC compliance officer, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “We had a meeting on Saturday looked promising however, the letter that we received was simply a spit in our faces because it was not addressing the core issues we have.”
The university said it is committed to working with the SRC subject to availability of resources and the university’s long-term sustainability.
FEATURED IMAGE: Student holding up a placard which reads, “Wits is not for good…”. Photo: Mpho Hlakudi
- Wits Vuvuzela, INFOGRAPHIC: Wits SRC vs Wits SET, March 2023
- Wits Vuvuzela, GALLERY: Tensions rise on third day of protests, March 2023
- Wits Vuvuzela, Suspensions loom as #WitsShutdown continues, March 2023