Wits students vow to picket as classes set to resume

The university says those who want to continue with protests must do so peacefully & in designated areas.

FILE: Wits management postpone assembly and students vow  to keep Wits shut. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - As Wits University prepares to resume with academic activities this morning, student leaders on the other hand insist there is no way the institution will open today.

On Saturday, the university's council decided classes should resume after a two week-long shut down due to ongoing fee protests, saying the resumption of the academic program will benefit all students, as well as academic and administrative staff and is crucial for the completion of the 2016 academic year.

On Friday, the university postponed the official general assembly at the last minute, saying they could not reach a consensus with students.

The university says those who want to continue with protests on campus must do so peacefully and in designated areas.

Spokesperson Shirona Patel says: "Any person who intimidate or threaten another student or staff member may suspended. We're completely opposed to violent protests and anyone carrying rocks, stones, weapons or any other any other weapon that can destroy property or incite harm will immediately be examined and may be suspended."

She says those using items to conceal their identity will also have to answer to authorities.

While student leader Mcebo Dlamini has described these conditions as draconian, he says the shutdown continues.

"The decision of the students is a firm one, we continue with the shutdown up until our demands are met. There's no way which Wits University can open, it has to remain shut."

The university says there will be rigorous control measures at the entrance of the university and have urged staff and students to carry their access cards.

Watch: Students vow to keep Wits closed after postponement of general assembly

Meanwhile, the university says it's approved a revised calendar for 2016 and has developed contingency plans to ensure exams are written.

But protesting students say there's no way the institution will operate today, vowing to continue with their demonstration.

Patel says: "We also believe that we should give everyone a chance to write their exams to pass and to create space for next year's intake."

STUDENT LEADERS CRITICISE WITS

The university student leaders have criticised the institution's conditions for protesting, saying they are draconian and show the university's non-commitment to working with students

Dlamini said they can't be treated like this on campus.

"We have to continue with the fight because an evil system is showing its ugly hat yet again. It means these protests has made Wits to come out and show its exact colours and what it is."

On Saturday, student leaders said they will delegate some of their peers to the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and University of Limpopo to provide assistance to student leaders there.

Student activist Busisiwe Seabe said Dlamini will be delegated to UKZN to assist arrested students.

Eleven students were arrested two weeks ago for their involvement in the #FeesMustFall demonstrations aimed at lobbying for free education.

"The ones going to KZN will assist the students who've been arrested, bail them out and see how we can assist UKZN further with regards to their shut down."

She said another leader Vuyani Pampo will leave for the University of Limpopo to help with issues of accommodation after the institution obtained an eviction order stating that students must vacate campus.

"Limpopo is exactly the same thing, however, we've noted that the issue of residences is something we need to attend to immediately. So we are going to see if we can get some sort of a court interdict to prevent students from getting evicted."