Wits to remain open, will attempt to conclude academic year

The institution says all its campuses will remain open despite the ongoing disruptions.

FILE: The sun is almost setting in Braamfontein but the Wits protests continue and streets still aflame. Picture: Victor Magwedze/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Wits University says it will continue to do everything possible to ensure this academic year does not run into 2017.

The institution says all its campuses will remain open despite the ongoing disruptions and that students will also be allowed to protest under prescribed conditions.

Earlier, a bus was set alight near the university's Braamfontein campus by protesting students who were also caught up in clashes with the police.

The university says shutting the institution down would be a waste of millions of rands.

Wits deputy vice-chancellor Tawana Kupe said, "If you just look at the university only and say that is what you are shutting down, you are shutting down lives, not only of the graduates but also shutting down the lives of the services we provide. We are throwing away millions of rands that have been invested."

Police are now moving on foot through the streets of Braamfontein where they are trying to disperse the crowds still gathered there.

Authorities have brought in additional officers to assist with containing the situation.

A short while ago a fresh round of bullets was used on demonstrators who pelted stones at the Puma store in Braamfontein and looted it.





MEETING AT WITS

Protesting Wits students have now moved back on campus where they are expected to meet at Solomon Mahlangu House.

Student leaders fetched some of the other students to re-join them at Wits.

Later in the afternoon, students continued singing and chanting through the streets of Braamfontein.

The streets remain strewn with burning tyres and rocks this evening.

STATEMENT FROM WITS UNIVERSITY:

WITS REMAINS OPEN ON TUESDAY, 11 OCTOBER 2016

Dear Students and Colleagues,

It has been a difficult day for students and staff at Wits today, with classes on all campuses disrupted from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

Following the disruption of some lectures, protestors gathered in front of the Great Hall and threw rocks at private security. The police responded and dispersed the crowd using teargas, stun grenades and water cannons. The protestors ran into Braamfontein, where we have heard that a bus was set alight and people were injured through skirmishes with the police.

Despite these challenges, the Deans have confirmed that just over half of all lectures went ahead today across campuses. The operational control of the security is in the hands of the police and they have agreed to deploy resources on a building by building basis tomorrow. The National Commissioner has advised that there is a clear strategy to arrest any individual involved in criminal activity. At least eleven arrests were made by the police today.

Please note that the Yale Road North and Yale Road South will be open tomorrow morning. The Enoch Sontonga gate will be closed. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

We reiterate that we have met with some student leaders privately and we are open to engaging with students from all societies and mediators to try to find a negotiated settlement. The Dean of Students invited 20 student representatives to meet with management today, but the students did not take the offer. We are also open to an imbizo provided that it doesn't fall into teaching time, it is facilitated independently, it allows for two-way conversation and is planned in advance.

We are happy to address all internal issues as described earlier but it is beyond our control to give students free education now.

Wits has pledged its support for the goal of free, fully funded, quality, decolonised higher education. We pledge to approach government with a united voice for the realisation of this goal. We pledge to deploy our intellectual resources towards finding the best solutions. We are also prepared to support peaceful advocacy activities in this regard. Read the full pledge.

We have a strenuous week ahead but we are determined to get the full academic programme back on track.

Thank you,

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

10 OCTOBER 2016