A brief reprieve at Wits University, as protesting students momentarily call off protest action.
The deputy president of the Wits student representative council (SRC), Kamogelo Mabe declared a 24-hour ceasefire on March 8, as the group prepares to finally meet with Vice Chancellor, Zeblon Vilakazi.
The ceasefire is conditional, Mabe called for all ‘bouncers’ (security officers) to be removed from campuses and for no further suspensions to be enacted by the university.
“This is a stance that we are taking as student leaders. We are not intimidated, we are not pressured into any position, but we are simply saying that we are, for the last time, revisiting this conversation,” said Mabe at a press briefing.
Several student protesters including the Wits SRC president, Aphiwe Mnyamana remain suspended from the university. The suspensions bar the students from entering the university premises including residences, making them effectively homeless and unable to continue with their studies.
Speaking to eNCA, the university’s spokesperson Shirona Patel welcomed the ceasefire and said that they were willing to meet the SRC’s demands to facilitate dialogue. Patel added that the university has already acceded to the SRC’s demand to remove the police presence in and around the university and will reduce the number of private security guards as the situation deescalates.
“I’ve been here before the pandemic, and I’ve seen like protests like in 2019 and I’m a bit unfazed by it because it’s something that like we almost expect now so it’s a bit disheartening to me that like we’re still having these conversations even though I’ve been here since 2019 this is 2023 and it’s still the same conversation,” said Owethu Tema, a third-year architecture student
Similar protests are taking place at the Tshwane University of Technology, the University of Pretoria, and the University of Cape Town, among others. The same issues persist at these institutions, students simply cannot afford both the high cost of education and the living expenses that come with being a student.
FEATURED IMAGE: Left to right: Wits SRC members Karabo Matloga, deputy president Kamogelo Mabe and secretary general Tshiamo Chuma at the press briefing on March 8, 2023. Photo: Mpho Hlakudi
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