Wits suspends activities after protests

The university says it has suspended activities after considering the safety of staff and students.

A student uses a fire extinguisher to create cover during skirmishes with private security at Senate House at Wits University. Picture: Nina Leslie/i-Witness

JOHANNESBURG - Wits University has suspended all activities for the rest of the week after yesterday's protests which saw police clash with students over fees.

The university says it has suspended activities after considering the safety of staff and students.

Students have been demonstrating at several South African universities after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande's announcement this week that varsities need to determine their own fee hikes for the 2017 academic year.

Yesterday, there were violent scenes at Wits when students and security guards threw stones at each other as protesters tried to enter Solomon Mahlangu House.

At least 31 students have been arrested and are being detained at the Hillbrow police station after blocking cars from entering the Wits campus.

The university has obtained a court interdict preventing students from disrupting academic activities and threatening those entering and leaving the premises.

Later in the day, Wits students and private security on campus clashed, pelting stones at each other, with rubber bullets, stun grenades and teargas being used by security.

Incoming Wits SRC president Kefentse Mkhari says: "The university uses its own autonomy to silence the community of the university, the larger portion of the university is the students."

Demonstrating students walked around the campus, calling on others who were in lectures to join them, a request that was met with resistance from some.

Protesting Wits University students say their next goal is to fight management over what they have described as the militarisation of their campus.

Meanwhile, the University of Johannesburg has urged students across the country to be aware of those who appropriate legitimate student causes for their personal political ends.

UJ's convocation president Mbali Mkhonto says: "Our course for free education must not be hijacked by any external forces."

WATCH: Rocks and rampage at Wits University

CALM AT WITS THIS MORNING

Wits University has condemned violent clashes that broke out during a protest over fees yesterday saying action will be taken against those responsible.

Wits says it has suspended its activities on campus but says residences and dining halls will operate as usual and staff in these areas are expected to report for duty.

At the moment it's fairly quiet at the university, a few students can be seen coming out of libraries.

But there is heavy police presence and private security.

While remnants of yesterday's violent scene on the entrance of the Great Hall can be seen, the institution has condemned the violent action and says it's I identifying those who took and will take against them.

STUDENTS URGED NOT TO PROTEST

At the same time, the African National Congress (ANC) has called on university students to desist from protesting.

On Monday, Nzimande reiterated that there's no money available to cover the shortfall of another zero percent increase at the country's universities.

The ANC's Khusela Sangoni said: "We are calling on university students and management to ensure they desist from any unlawful and negative activities during this period. Government and universities are still continuing discussions behind a lifelong solution to the challenge of funding the higher education."

Meanwhile, the ANC Youth League says it rejects the entire argument that a university fee increment to the margin of eight percent must be contemplated.

The youth league's spokesperson, Mlondi Mkhize, says they stand by their position on moratorium on all university fees, pending the outcomes of the presidential commission on free education.