Strong police presence at Wits as classes resume

All vehicles are being searched, with students and staff required to show their access cards at the entrance.

Police patrol at Wits University as the institution prepares to reopen, following protests over free tertiary education. Picture: Clement Manyathela/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - There's a strong police presence at Wits University this morning, as the institution prepares to re-open, following protests over free tertiary education.

There's tight control to access the university this morning.

On Saturday, the university's council decided that classes should resume, saying it will benefit all students, academic and administrative staff and is crucial for the completion of the academic year.

The decision came a day after the university postponed a general assembly at the eleventh hour, saying it could not reach a consensus with students.

At the entrance, all vehicles - including busses - are being searched with students and staff required to show their access cards.

There are also private security officers stationed inside the campus and police offices with sniffer dogs are also clearly visible.

The university says it will allow students to protest but only in designated areas and in a peaceful manner that doesn't disrupt classes.

At the moment, a small group of students has started to gather in front of the Great Hall, singing struggle songs.



SRC LEADER VOWS TO FIGHT ON

Protesting Wits University student leaders say they are willing to do everything to keep the momentum going and that if it means disrupting classes, so be it.

The university has warned protesting students against intimidation and disrupting classes, saying that doing so will lead to suspensions.

But incoming SRC president Kefentse Mkhari says they won't relent.

"If need be, we disrupt classes, we're going to do that. We're going to do as much as we can to show that we keep this momentum going."

He says there is no way they are going back to class.

"Adam Habib has gone the violent way and we're going to do as much as we can because we can't say we're going back to class just like that, it has been three weeks now."

They have accused vice chancellor Adam Habib of choosing violence by resuming classes today under heavy police presence but says students have chosen a course they are willing to die for.

UNIVERSITY TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST VIOLENT PROTEST

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.