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Update on Wits/EFF meeting

- By Wits University

STATEMENT FROM THE COUNCIL EXCO OF WITS UNIVERSITY FOLLOWING A MEETING WITH LEADERS OF THE NATIONAL EFF ON MONDAY, 24 AUGUST 2015 

Representatives of the Council Exco of the University of the Witwatersrand today met the national leadership of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the student leadership of the Wits EFF society to discuss the disruption of an SRC election debate on Tuesday, 18 August 2015.

The EFF made three requests regarding decisions that had been taken by the majority of the Council Exco, excluding the SRC, on Friday, 21 August 2015. Firstly, they requested the withdrawal of the decision to de-recognise the Wits EFF as a student society at the University; secondly, they requested the withdrawal of the disqualification from the SRC elections of members of the Wits EFF who had contravened the Electoral Code of Conduct; and thirdly, they requested the withdrawal of the suspension of individuals who were involved in violence and/or threats of violence from the University and its activities.

On the first matter, the national leadership confirmed that the EFF had never said that it would operate outside the rules of the University and if any individual had said that, they would have been acting in their individual capacity. It also confirmed that the EFF had committed itself to being a peaceful and non-violent organisation that engages robustly. On the basis of this assurance, the University is willing to withdraw the de-recognition of the Wits EFF as a student society. The Wits EFF can now operate at the University as a duly constituted society, as long as it does so within the framework of our collective rules, including peaceful engagement.

On the second and third matters, the Council Exco and the EFF were not in agreement.

On the second matter, regarding the disqualification of candidates who violated the Electoral Code of Conduct by disrupting the election debate, the decision stands and these individuals remain disqualified from participating in the SRC elections. We cannot allow a situation where individuals who signed an Electoral Code of Conduct violate it and then continue to operate as candidates. This would undermine the ability of the elections to be conducted in a free and fair manner. Their cases will be investigated and disciplinary procedures will be implemented if appropriate.

On the third matter, regarding the suspension of individuals who were violent or threatened violence, and refused to dissociate themselves from this violence, the decision stands and these individuals remain suspended from the University and its activities. Their cases will also be investigated and disciplinary procedures will be implemented if appropriate. The University is mindful that these individuals are in the midst of their studies and will expedite their disciplinary procedures.

The University is committed to creating a safe space for the free exchange of ideas. It welcomes a multiplicity of voices on campus and in student governance, and believes that the participation of the Wits EFF will enhance this.

However, the University reiterates that the safety and security of the Wits community is paramount and cannot be compromised.

We look forward to robust debate and the contestation of ideas within the bounds of the rules of the University and the country.

Signed for and behalf of the Council Exco, Wits University by:

Dr Randall Carolissen

Chairperson of Council

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

24 August 2015

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