Wits University’s Student Representative Council (SRC) protest against the 10.5% fee increase slated for next year continues on Thursday.
Late on Wednesday, student leaders vowed to continue barring vehicles from entering or exiting the campus until they are granted an audience with university’s Vice Chancellor Adam Habib.
— WITS SRC #Oct14 (@WitsSRC) October 15, 2015
Daily Vox reporter Pontsho Pilane says students are firm in their resolve.
Students are willing to continue the protest until their demands are met. Primarily, they want Habib to talk to them. #WitsFeesMustFall
— The Daily VOX (@thedailyvox) October 14, 2015
“I did not witness any violence or unsafe actions from protestors on Wednesday,” Pilane said. There had however been scuffles where people had tried to force their way through the picket line, either to get onto or off campus in their vehicles.
While rumours that the university had sought an urgent interdict to have the protestors removed circulated among students Wits University spokesperson Shirona Patel told the Daily Vox that she was unaware of any legal moves to seek an interdict.
“As far as we are aware, there’s no interdict against anybody or anything,” Patel said.
“We’re asking people to just be patient now and if they’re feeling unsafe to wait in their offices or to wait for campus control,” she said. Those who are able to leave through pedestrian entrances are being encouraged to do so.
Police vehicles were spotted near the campus on Wednesday evening, but police did not intervene in the protest. A heightened security presence is expected on the campus on Thursday.
The protest has been an inconvenience for staff and students alike. Earlier on Wednesday, the university announced that it was cancelling all classes and events on campus for safety reasons.
“I want to leave because I’ve been here since 8 o’clock in the morning and we didn’t have any lectures today,” one student told Pilane, who has also been on campus all day.
“I live in Parktown and I used a bus to get here so if I want to leave now, it means I have to walk,” she said.
Speaking on Metro FM earlier on Wednesday vice-chancellor Adam Habib said it was “just unacceptable” to prevent 32,500 students from attending lectures.
“There’s been negotiations for six months on this matter. They’ve been party to the same negotiations … As much as I think there’s a legitimate issue here, we have to ask, is it legitimate to condone violence, is it legitimate for you to close down access to the university and prevent people from leaving?”
Habib said that the university was exploring several alternatives to raising fees but that he was “caught in a bind”. He added that if he did not the raise fees, the quality of education provided by the university would suffer.
What are your thoughts on the fee protests at Wits? Comment below or tweet us @thedailyvox.
Image credits DailyVox/Pontsho Pilane and Azra Karim.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Thursday morning to reflect the most recent developments.