Wits University students protest over lack of accommodation

Demonstrators are calling on the institution to mobilise resources to create more accommodation for students.

Wits University students protesting over a lack of accommodation on 4 March 2020. Picture: Veronica Makhoali/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Students at Wits University have vowed to bring the institution to a standstill as part of their protest over a lack of housing.

Demonstrators are on Wednesday calling on the institution to mobilise resources to create more accommodation for students.

A Student Representative Council (SRC) led-march was making its way to the university’s medical school after demonstrators blocked instruction’s entrance on Empire Road.

Student leader Freedom Tsotetsi called for immediate action to address what he said was a housing crisis.

“Currently, we have students who are sleeping in labs and libraries. Some of them are sleeping at Park Station and they come to campus in the morning after they’ve taken a shower in public toilets. So, we are protesting to say they must at least take these students and accommodate them and then we will raise funds for them as the year goes,” he said.

Issues over accommodation have been the source of much frustration across campuses in the country with some student leaders forced to sleep in the university’s library on Tuesday night.

Protesting students were expected to converge at the institution's medical campus in Parktown before taking their demands to the main campus in Braamfontein.

Meanwhile, Wits University vice-chancellor Adam Habib hit out at protesting students and accusing the SRC of misrepresenting the facts around housing issues on campus.

Habib said the protestors were being unfair and accused them of defaulting on an agreement signed by the SRC, which acknowledged the structural issues at the institution.

Habib said R17 million in the form of a hardship fund was set aside to address the housing issues.

"The vast majority of students who have problems with accommodation are people who have lost their NSFAS bursary. They've lost the bursary because they failed more than two times, so NSFAS is no longer giving them a bursary and they are now demanding that the university makes up."