Students, parents occupy Wits medical school

The protesters say they're discussing their plan of action that they'll present at Friday's general assembly.

Protesting Wits University medical school students gather inside a hall with their parents, academics and student leaders as they discuss way forward regarding free education. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Protesting Wits University students, parents, academics and workers have gathered at the medical school this morning, where a mass meeting is expected to take place ahead of the general assembly tomorrow.

On Tuesday, the university shut down all its campuses for the remainder of the week, following talks with former student leaders, the SRC and the clergy.

The decision followed running battles between students and police during demonstrations for free education.

Students, under the banner of #FeesMustFall, are gathered at the medical school, some with their parents and university staff members.

They say they are discussing their plan of action which they will present at tomorrow's general assembly.

One student activist says they are tired of being taken for granted and they want management to take their grievances seriously.

"This movement not only talks about fees, it speaks about democracy we've in this country. It's an answer to the corruption that we all cry about. Once they can fund education, they will be forced to cut the corruption because money must go into the education system."

A police contingent has also arrived.


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.

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.