Habib: Wits will shut down for 2016 if general assembly fails

The vice-chancellor says negotiations will continue and hopes that the general assembly will bring consensus.

FILE: Wits University vice-chancellor Adam Habib talks to a student representative. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Wits University vice-chancellor Adam Habib has reiterated that if tomorrow's general assembly does not work, the university may have to shut down for the rest of the academic year with a heavy police presence.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel has clarified that the general assembly at the institution has always been presided over by the chancellor, and that will once again be the case on Friday. The chancellor of Wits is former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.

On Tuesday, the university shut down and suspended all campus activities following talks with former student leaders, the SRC and the clergy.

Demonstrations have continued at more than half of the tertiary institutions nationwide as students continue their call for free education.

Habib says they are still continuing with negotiations and hopefully the general assembly will stipulate the consensus that's been reached.

"So basically what we've done is we've been negotiating over the last 24 hours already. The theme of this general assembly will be the principle of free education and how Wits community approaches it. We're developing a university pledge on the subject."

Habib says the decision from the meeting will be announced tomorrow, soon after everything has been concluded.

"Obviously this university pledges something that the mediators are discussing with the students. I'm raising it with my council members, with my senior managers' team.

"Today I'll have conversations with our senate on the matter and hopefully there can be a consensus derived by all stakeholders and basically tomorrow, that consensus will be announced to the world."

The assembly is expected to be attended by students, former student leaders, academics, parents and struggle stalwarts such as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

STUDENTS CLASHES

While the university has welcomed the commitment from students not to resort to violence. It said that yesterday's confrontation between those protesting and those wanting to attend lectures is regrettable.

A group of #TakeBackWits supporters had their placards ripped up and snatched by another group who accused the supporters of white privilege and arrogance.

WATCH: Opposing student groups clash at Wits

As the #TakeBackWits supporters made their way to the Great Hall for a silent protest, they were met by resistance from another group of students who want the university to remain closed.

After disruptions to their silent protest, the group then dispersed under the guard of campus security.

But one supporter said they are unapologetic.

"There are many people who are sitting at home who feel exactly how we feel."

FeesMustFall leader Vuyani Pambo has questioned the group's motives.


"They say to us this morning that they are taking back Wits University. We have drawn one conclusion from that, it is that they are taking Wits back to white hands."

The two groups will meet again on Friday at the institution's general assembly.