Student leaders want Wits to remain closed

Students started clashing with police on wits campus before being pushed off onto the streets.

Protests rolled over into Braamfontein where police and students clashed on Monday. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Student leaders at Wits University say they want the campus to remain shut down - not only for their demands to be met but also for the safety of those on campus.

Yesterday, saw running battles between police and demonstrators where a bus was set alight and authorities used stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.

At least 10 people have been arrested following yesterday's clashes with an unknown number of injuries stemming from the clashes.

Students started clashing with police on Wits campus before being pushed off onto the streets of Braamfontein.

Most of the afternoon, a police Nyala drove through the streets where rubber bullets were being fired to disperse various groups spread across the area.

Cars trying to make their way into and out of the Johannesburg CBD were pelted with stones and other objects, including a bus that was set alight.

The students were retaliating to private security and police using rubber bullets and stun grenades when they tried to gain access to Solomon Mahlangu House.

Despite yesterday's scenes however Wits management says classes will continue today.

Meanwhile, the university says it's working to fully restore its academic programme amid the ongoing protests by students for free education.

It says nearly 50 percent of its lectures went ahead despite the disruptions.

Wits deputy vice-chancellor Tawana Kupe says the university remains committed to engaging students.

"What have a responsibility to do, and we've got tons of letters and advise and support coming from South Africans and our partners on the continent and elsewhere, saying please do everything you can do to ensure that you don't wash down everything that has happened this year."

WATCH: Wits students clash with police during Fees Must Fall protests on campus.

UNIVERSITY TO REMAIN OPEN DESPITE CLASHES

The university said it would continue to do everything possible to ensure this academic year does not run into 2017.

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

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."

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

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