Students on day six in the dark

The power is still out for many, some Witsies have taken to the streets with demands in tow.

Braamfontein residents and Wits University students who live off campus, woke up to another day with no electricity on May 6, 2024. After days of not eating, showering and studying students are demanding reprieve.

Led by the Wits SRC, a group blocked traffic and stopped inter-campus buses on Jorissen Street in Braamfontein, proclaiming “if we aren’t comfortable, no one should be”. The outage follows a fire at the Fordsburg substation last week.

No power, no shopping ,Ackermans loses out on making any sales this week due to electricity crisis. Photo: Katlego Mtshali

Their immediate demands call for the all-academic programmes (including the postponement of tests and assignments), water and food provision.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, a frustrated BA third-year student, Felicity Makalima said: “Where is the next meal coming from? Yes, efforts are being made by different student councils at Wits, but it still falls short. More than 500 students are affected and need to eat at least three times a day.”

Over the weekend the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO) and SRC worked together to secure food and tutorial rooms for studying purposes.

Takalani Netshiavha a third-year LLB student highlighted the impact on academic attendance. “There’s a sub-minimum rule of attendance, and now we won’t be able to write tests because we could not show up to class. It’s not our fault that Braamfontein has no power,” she said.

Students in Wits residences have had intermittent but steady electricity supply thanks to back-up generators.

Safety has also been raised as students are forced to study till late on campus then walk back to their residences in the dark streets of Braamfontein.

In a short statement, the Mechanical Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering and School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics (CSAM) Student Councils say they have been engaging with the school administration, seeking a two-week postponement of assessments. Citing limited data for those off campus in particular.
Wits still makes access to data available to qualifying students, but the SRC says this is not enough considering the current situation.

While some students were able to go to friends and family over the weekend to escape the crisis, many do not have that luxury. A fair few are from other provinces or simply cannot afford to. Added to this, some are anxious about falling behind academically.

The ongoing crisis has also affected retail shops in Braamfontein, with staff sitting outside closed storefronts at Ackermans, PEP, FNB, and McDonald’s on Monday afternoon.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits SRC leaders spearhead a resolute protest on through Braamfontein, demanding urgent action to address the student electricity crisis. Photo: Katlego Mtshali

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