#Fees2017: Heavy security, police presence raises concern amongst academics

Security has been reinforced at Wits University following running battles between police & students.

Former Wits University SRC leader Mcebo Dlamini, dances with a helmet belonging to the university private security and with a shield during a running battle with the police forces on campus as he takes part in student protests on 4 October, 2016. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - Academics at Wits University have raised concerns over the heavy security and police presence at the institution, saying it doesn't make for a conducive learning environment.

Security has been reinforced at the university this morning following running battles between protesting students and police yesterday.

The standoff spilled over to the streets of Braamfontein, which saw a bus being set alight and some shops looted.

The university's student representative council has distanced itself from the violence which unfolded following the incident.

Classes are expected to get underway at the university today amid a high police and security presence.

Professor Noor Nieftagodien, head of history workshop at the institution, says he's unhappy with the current situation.

"The presence of security, both private security and police, is not conducive and makes it very difficult for the university to function."

Nieftagodien says teaching is difficult under such conditions.

"They may be fighting outside. They (students) hear the stun grenades, the tear gas comes into our classrooms and there's cops outside - we cannot teach under these conditions."

However, Wits Management says it will continue to teach those who want to learn, until the 2016 academic programme is back on track.

The university's Shirona Patel says they will not give up on the fight to save this academic year.

"We need to finish the academic programme this year and we need to have exams written. This will be our key focus for the next two weeks. Despite yesterday's disruptions, we still had about half of our classes going and we'll keep going every day until we get the academic programme back on track."

Police are patrolling near Solomon Mahlangu House with sniffer dogs, while private security is stationed at the Great Hall.

LISTEN: Wits University spokesperson Shirona Patel on the heavy police presence amid student protests


At the same time, the university says its given police full operational control of the institution as there appears to be no end in sight to Fees Must Fall protests at the institution.

Two of the three main gates to the university have been opened today.

WATCH: Students shut down Wits before taking #Fees2017 protest to Braamfontein

There's also restricted access to the institution with security checking for student cards and inspecting vehicles.

The university says police will deployed to each building as the need arises.


Meanwhile, five students have been arrested following disruptive protests at Rhodes University yesterday.

Spokesperson Catherine Deiner says, "The day began with protesting students entering residences and vandalising property. Fire alarms were set off and, in some cases, ripped from the walls. Protesters then entered lecture venues and strew rubbish across the floors, disrupting lectures. Some ablution facilities have their drains blocked and flooding was caused in those areas."

Lectures are expected to resume at Rhodes and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University today.