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Attempted occupation of Senate House  

- Wits University

An update on yesterday's attempt by students to unlawfully occupy the Concourse of Senate House.

Many universities around the country have experienced disruptions this week. We are pleased that our academic programme has proceeded without hindrance for the last two weeks.

Attempted occupation of Senate House

A small group of about 15 individuals, attempted to unlawfully occupy the Concourse of Senate House again yesterday afternoon, in direct violation of the interim court order. The students were supported by a few academics. The individuals were repeatedly asked to leave but refused to do so, some even claiming that they were waiting to be arrested. Additional security has been deployed across campuses, a case has been opened and the public order police were called in. The group were escorted out of the building last night. Some members of the group broke windows in the Great Hall foyer as they were leaving.  

Fire at the back of the Wartenweiler Library

As they left Central Block, the group dispersed on the Braamfontein Campus and some of them then attempted to set alight a foam mattress at the back of the Wartenweiler Library. They entered the building through the back door of the 24 hour reading room. The fire was extinguished and the building was immediately evacuated. No one was hurt and nothing was destroyed.  

Clarity on burnt bus

The University would like to clarify that the bus that was set alight on Wednesday night was about to stop at the Knockando Residence with about 15 students on board when the fire was started. No one was hurt. A case has been opened at the Parkview Police Station.   

Response from the Senior Executive Team

Given the incidents that have occurred in the last two days, the University has no option but to once again deploy a strong security contingent throughout our campuses, including on our bus routes. The safety and security of our staff, students, visitors and property remains paramount and we will not compromise in this regard.

We are left with no choice but to once again redirect resources away from where it is needed most – accommodation, food and support for needy students. It is unacceptable that we will once again have to spend more funds on additional security, which has cost us just over R2 million per month on average since October.

There are some that argue that the University is criminalising protest. This is completely untrue. The activities that we have witnessed in recent days – the malicious damage to property, the burning of a bus and the destruction of property and vandalisation - represents criminal activity, and we will deal with these acts accordingly. We will keep you updated in this regard.

How you can help?

We believe that it is the responsibility of every member of the University community to stand up against this criminal behaviour by coming forth with information to assist the investigation. Anyone with information, images or footage should report to Campus Control in person or call 011 717-4444 or 011 717-6666.  

If you need help

All concerned students and parents, and anyone who requires support, should please call 011 717-9140 or 011 717-9132. Any students in need of assistance should be directed to the Office of the Dean of Students.

Staff members should liaise directly with their line managers or executive leaders should they require support.

Conclusion

This is indeed a difficult period for the higher education sector and for the country as a whole. We thank you for your patience and support during this time. We will keep you updated as developments occur.

Senior Executive Team

19 February 2016

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