Start main page content

Update on student protest and registration

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement at 09:00:

This morning campus security evicted about 20 students that were occupying the Ground Floor of Senate House and who effectively disrupted the University’s registration process yesterday. The students were asked to leave last night but did not do so, and were thus evicted this morning. 

The occupation infringed on the rights of students who wanted to register, many of them the poorest of the poor that required assistance from the University. The University suspended face to face registration on Monday and Tuesday and students were requested to register online and telephonically. Face to face registration will continue from tomorrow, Wednesday, 13 January 2015. 

The University is committed to increasing access to higher education and in so doing, has put in place an arrangement for the first fee payment. Students who cannot afford to pay the first instalment can fill in a form online indicating that they cannot pay, and the University will allow them to register. The first fee payment is therefore not an obstacle to registration for any student. Regarding historical debt, for all students who were on NSFAS in 2015, an agreement has been reached with government. As per a statement issued by the Presidency, the historical debt of all students who were on NSFAS in 2015 will be settled by government. 

It is important to realise that we cannot destroy the University and make it unsustainable. This will impact more on the poor rather than rich and will reinforce the very inequalities that we are trying to address. 

We respect the rights of those who wish to protest lawfully and peacefully without infringing on the rights of those who want to work and learn. 

Senate House and all University buildings are now open to staff. Staff are requested to please redirect all who have queries to their respective faculty offices. Admissions consultants will be available in faculty offices.  

CONTACT DETAILS

For today, all fees queries should be directed to feesoffice.finance@wits.ac.za

All Financial Aid and Scholarships queries should be directed to info.finaid@wits.ac.za

Telephone registration can be undertaken for Health Sciences and Engineering students via 011 717 1888 

For updates and information visit www.wits.ac.za or follow on the University on Twitter: @WitsUniversity and @Wits_News.

Notification of Interim Court Order

- Wits University

The University obtained an Interim Court Order in the South Gauteng High Court on 15 January 2016.

View a copy of the Interim Court Order on 15 January 2016.

Interim-Court-Order-15-January-2016

 

 

Gauteng VCs call on leaders to help stabilise higher education

- Wits University

Media briefing: Statement by the vice-chancellors and rectors of the public universities in Gauteng at 15:00:

We, the vice-chancellors of all Gauteng-based universities today appeal to all students, academics, professional and administrative staff and parents to do everything within their power to ensure a smooth start to the academic year and to underline the importance of tertiary education as the foremost route to empowerment for individuals, families and communities. 

Our job as universities is the empowerment of the next generation of leaders for the South African economy, society and governance through academic study leading to concrete, sought after qualifications. As the universities in South Africa’s economic heartland, we are aware of our responsibility to ensure that learning, teaching and research can continue uninterrupted through the 2016 academic year, and we are appealing to all associated with the universities to make their contributions to achieving the same goal. 

We unequivocally support for access to quality higher education for all as enshrined in the Constitution. We are uncompromising in our determination to defend the right of all students to a quality education, regardless of their economic or social standing. This is necessary if we are to realise a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and economically and socially inclusive society. 

The absolute condition for our universities is to be able to play a role in the transformation of society and the empowerment of individuals is for learning, teaching, and research to take place unhindered. Damage to university property can never be a solution and only contributes to disempowering those most dependent on university facilities such as libraries, laboratories, and administration. 

We remain completely committed to the dialogue with our students that started last year as we together search for the long-term solutions to the challenges facing higher education. The appointment of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry gives all of us – academics, students, administrators, and parents the framework within which we can seek concrete solutions which are both workable in practice, and acceptable to all. 

Government, under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma and Minister Blade Nzimande, supported by vice-chancellors, has made huge strides in addressing the issues and challenges facing universities.

Following the report and recommendations from the Presidential Task Team on Funding for Higher Education, a total amount of almost R17 billion has been committed by government to support universities in managing the 0% fee increase in 2016, and addressing NSFAS shortfalls and outstanding student debt. In an environment of fiscal restraint, this is an exceptional achievement. 

Universities, in turn, have also put in place our own institutional mechanisms to mobilise additional funds and to enhance support to financially needy students and their parents, in order to create better access to higher education. 

We realise that many challenges remain, particularly for the so-called ‘missing middle’ group of students who are unable to access NSFAS funding, and who find it difficult to pay their own way. We are doing everything in our power to support this group in the short term, and are working with government to improve this support in the medium and long term. 

The current funding model is based on fees. There are many other ways of funding higher education and it is possible that the Presidential Commission may recommend a new model in the long term. 

We are deeply concerned with the recent disruptions and violent protests linked to student registration processes at some of our institutions. In most cases, these sporadic but sometimes violent events had been led by a small group of students. In some instances, they have been supported by the employees of service providers contracted by our universities. 

We are however aware that the vast majority of students – actively encouraged by their parents – are keen for the academic year to get underway. All we are asking is for these students to be allowed to get on with it while we move forward with a common agenda to resolve the issues of access and finance that we face. 

We call on all sectors of society, including parents, churches and civil society, to mediate, and to work with us to ensure that the higher education sector does not suffer long-term damage. In particular, we call on the leadership of all political parties to demonstrate leadership and ensure that their supporters work towards stabilising the system. Our higher education sector is one of the best functioning sectors on the continent, which we as a country cannot afford to destroy. Our students certainly cannot afford to lose a year because a minority is determined to disrupt teaching and learning. 

All members of the university community have the right to protest but such protest must respect the constitutional rights of others to access higher education institutions, in order to learn and work. 

Any attempt to disturb the smooth running of the universities as they gear up for the new academic year should be rejected by anyone interested in the broadest possible access to higher learning as a route to transformation and intergenerational empowerment in our country. As places of research, innovation, learning and teaching which rest upon the fundamental premise that universities must always be a place of open debate, the Gauteng-based universities will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety, security, and freedom of movement and debate of all our people. 

This means that we will also ensure that anything that can endanger students, staff and the buildings in which they study, teach, and work, will be prevented. 

We urgently appeal to all students and other role-players to respect the rights of others to access our universities, to act responsibly through constructive engagement, and to desist from any form of violent or disruptive protest action, which places our community and facilities at risk, and jeopardises the entire higher education system in its task of empowering the next generation and the country. 

Statement by vice-chancellors and rectors of the public universities in Gauteng

Management engaging with student groups

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement at 09:00:

Wits University can confirm that disruptions have occurred in Senate House and Hall 29 where students are registering today. Some student groups are protesting against academic and financial exclusions as part of the national #FeesMustFall campaign.

Management is engaging with the student groups to try to resolve this matter as soon as possible. We will update the University community again at 12:00. Affected staff should liaise with their respective line managers as to plans for this morning.

University management, SRC reach agreement

- Wits University

Message from the Senior Executive Team at 08:00:

In the interests of facilitating further access to the University, and after negotiation with the Students' Representative Council, the Senior Executive Team has agreed to implement the following measures that will enable more returning students to register in 2016:

1. All students who owe the University between R1 and R1 000 will be allowed to register in 2016. The outstanding debt for 2015 will be rolled over to 2016. The University estimates that this concession will benefit 3 607 students this year.

2. All students who can show that they are fully funded for 2016 will be allowed to register. They will have to sign an acknowledgement of debt for fees owed in 2015.

3. The University will work with the SRC to raise funds to clear the debt of approximately 1 284 students who owe the University between R1 001 and R5 000. If this effort is successful, these students will then be allowed to register in 2016.

4. The SRC and the University will approach the provincial government to cover the debt of about 1 418 students who owe the University between R5 001 and R20 000. If these efforts are successful, these students will be allowed to register for the 2016 academic year.

We trust that these arrangements will go a long way towards enabling the majority of our students to register for 2016 without hindrance. A number of other issues have also been agreed to and/or resolved. These will be announced later today.

Thank you to all staff and students for your patience during this difficult period.

Response to critique of campus safety and security arrangements

- Adam Habib

Open letter by Professor Adam Habib on behalf of the Senior Executive Team:

I write to you in my capacity as Vice-Chancellor and Principal, with the full support of the Senior Executive Team (SET).

In the past week, some of you have bluntly expressed concerns in public and directly to me about the decision of the Senior Executive Team to bring private security onto campus. For those of you who have raised these concerns, please allow me the privilege of being as bold and blunt in my response, in the interests of identifying the options that are available to us as a university community. Please also forgive me for the length of my reply, but I do think that it is necessary for everyone to comprehensively understand from where we are coming.

One of you has suggested that you cannot understand why we would have brought private security and police to the university. It would have been useful – perhaps even necessary – for this person to have determined this before pronouncing so categorically on our decision, and attempting to begin a global campaign on the issue. Nevertheless, let me provide some details. On Monday this past week a small group of students were not simply peacefully protesting and dissenting. Instead, they were actively preventing registration from taking place. They were abusive of people, threatening them, and in some cases people were locked up in their offices. There was one male protester who told a female staff member that he knows where she lives and will take her out. In addition, I received a number of written requests, including one from a student leader expressing fear about being violently targeted by the protesters. These actions represented 'violations of rights' and the abuse of other members of our university community. These actions and countless others by the protesters forced us to bring an end to face-to-face registration.

Consequences of postponement of registration

Let me explain the net effect of stopping the registration process. We have two forms of registration, online and face-to-face, with telephone registration as a back-up to be instituted when required. Forcing us to cancel face-to-face registration adversely affected the poorest of those who wanted to register. Online registration enabled the middle and upper middle classes to continue with the process. They have online facilities and they have credit cards. They were not adversely affected, even if some may have been slightly inconvenienced. But the old man from Limpopo, who scraped whatever monies he could raise from family, friends and his community to ensure that his grandson registered, was severely impacted. He and his grandson travelled for hours, only to be told that he could not register because some group of activists had decided that they would shut down registration unless all historic debt had been cancelled and free education immediately granted. There were many such people on that day, and there were many more throughout the week. All attempts to get protesters to allow the registration to proceed came to naught.

Protecting the rights of all

Were this grandfather and his grandson, as well as the countless others, not victims? Do they not require our sympathy and outrage? Do they not require our best institutional support to register and embark on an academic career? I have heard some academics express unhappiness at our use of private security both now and at the end of last year, but I have never heard any of these same academics express public outrage at the violation of the rights of others – whether those be the staff member whose life is threatened, the ill staff member who could not make a doctor’s appointment to obtain medication for a life threatening disease, or other student leaders who have been threatened and now feel silenced and unsafe. Are these not also members of our University community? Do we decide to ignore them simply because they do not carry the correct ideological line? Maybe it has to do with the fact that these individuals do not figure prominently within our networks or community, from whom we draw political affirmation. Is this why some of us are not concerned about their rights?

For those who have raised the security concerns, the challenge that we believe you need to consider is: how would you have enabled the grandfather from Limpopo to register his grandson? How else would you have protected the staff members and students that were being harassed and threatened? In fact, we are aware that some concluded in private conversations that took place regarding the security arrangements that they did not know what should be done and had no alternatives to suggest. Nevertheless, they still remain opposed to the security arrangements that have been made. The net effect of this position is that the poor student must be denied the right to register, and that the interests of staff and students who have been threatened should be ignored.

We are aware that this view is reflected by a minority of our academic colleagues only. The vast majority of our academic and professional and administrative staff have expressed support for our actions and we have the emails and correspondence to prove this. We know the typical response to this: they are seen as conservatives, opposed to the transformation of the University. Is this response not a tad arrogant? Should we allocate ourselves the right to label all those we disagree with as conservatives? And even if they are conservatives, why should their rights not be protected by the university like those of all others?

Decisions around security arrangements

I want to assure you that we did not make the security arrangements lightly. I understand the disempowerment that one experiences from security arrangements that are outside of one’s control. I probably understand this more than many colleagues because I personally experienced what it meant to be imprisoned under state of emergency conditions. I experienced what it meant to be in solitary confinement, to be interrogated and to feel the fear that you may not see your loved ones again. I understand what it means to be deported by a foreign government without any just cause, or to be strip-searched in an airport in another country. I understand about being disempowered by arbitrary security actions. Other colleagues on the executive have had similar harsh experiences. Professor Tawana Kupe lived in Zimbabwe and has an acute understanding of the arbitrary use of power. Professor Zeblon Vilakazi grew up in Katlehong and has very real personal experiences of arbitrary violence. This is why we collectively would not make decisions like this lightly.

I also want to assure those who are concerned that claims that security assaulted students are untrue. We have viewed the video footage of last week’s events and we have not found anything that supports these claims. On the contrary, there is video footage in which students can be seen to be engaging in threatening activities against security.

Many have asked why private security was brought in and not public order policing? The answer is simple: public order police would have immediately required a court order to become operational on campus. More importantly, once they are invited onto campus, one is not allowed to limit their operations or influence their tactics and strategies. With private security, such limitations can be imposed. We have insisted that no guns must be used in any operations. We therefore decided to deploy private security on campus, with public order police on standby. For those who were worried about this arrangement, would they have preferred that we brought the public order police onto campus immediately? Would that not have allowed for the use of rubber bullets and other actions as have happened in other university settings in recent weeks? Or would they have preferred that we simply have no one, and deny protection to both the staff members and students who were threatened and the grandfather from Limpopo who wanted to register his grandson?

Some may ask why we did not use our own campus security? This answer is also simple: they are not sufficiently trained for this scale of protest. We could bring in a more adequately trained campus security team but do we truly want a 'militarised' campus all year round when this scale of security and protection is not required? Does it not make sense to use the campus security that we have – perhaps more efficient and better trained – and bring in the enhanced security arrangements as and when they are required? This was the case this week and given this, we simply cannot accede to the request of some to remove our security arrangements, at least until we are guaranteed that registration will continue without disruption and that the safety and security of all staff and students will not be threatened.

Some of you have also requested that we should publish the contracts with the security companies, including the associated financial costs. We are not averse to making these contracts available at the appropriate time given that we are a public university. This information should be received bearing in mind that we have to balance our expenses on security with the academic, financial and reputational consequences of not having had any. It is also worth noting that a significant portion of the associated costs of our security arrangements may be covered by our insurance cover

Complacency around violence

I should perhaps sign off now that I have responded to the immediate issues, but I beg your indulgence to also raise some related matters. Many academics, now and before, have been involved in solidarity actions around the student and worker protests. This is legitimate and should be respected and valued at a university such as Wits. All of these individuals have also been critical of the executive's decisions around the management of this protest and our willingness to accede to the demands. Again this is their right. At some point we need to engage on how we understand social action and how social outcomes are realised; the balance to be struck between protest and institutional engagement; the necessity of trade-offs and who should be responsible for these; and our response on the rise of racial essentialism within the midst of the protesting community. But those are debates for another time

More immediately, I want to engage all of you on the complacency of some regarding violence or the threat of it within our protesting communities, and the political project of some actors to delegitimise institutional structures and replace them with revolutionary alternatives.

Many have stood firm against the presence of private security and public order police on campus, but have been shockingly sanguine about violence within the community of protesters. Many have simply turned a blind eye to violence or threats thereof, and some have even advocated violence as a legitimate means in a revolutionary moment. Really? At a university? In this moment, in a democratic era, whatever our criticisms of it? Is there not a romanticising of violence by middle class activists and academics? Have we truly considered the consequences of allowing violence to prevail within our community? I worked in the townships around Pietermaritzburg – Mpophomeni, Sobantu, Imbali and Edendale – at the height of the ANC-Inkatha wars in the 1980s. The near civil war decimated the communities and undermined the possibility of any egalitarian project. If this is true of communities under economic pressure, how much more is it true of the University itself which is meant to be a free and safe space for all ideas? Can we truly extrapolate that because of the presence of structural violence as a result of neoliberalism and racial exclusion, personal violence can now be justified both within and outside of a university community? Even if one holds this view, is one not in violation of one’s implicit and explicit social compact with the University community to protect all within it, and its broader project of learning?

For many, these protests are a struggle for free education for the poor. This is a legitimate struggle, as I and many of the Wits executive have so often argued. But many are also aware that for some, this struggle is more than that. It is a means to achieve other political ends, whether those are constructed around the upcoming elections, or to create a systemic crisis that collapses the Zuma administration. Again, those agendas are legitimate and allowed in a democratic environment dependent on how they are undertaken

I have personally also been publicly critical of this government, probably more than most have. However, as Vice-Chancellor of this institution, it is my responsibility to ensure that this University survives intellectually and is not a casualty in a broader political struggle within the society. Our individual social contracts with the University and with the broader academy are to protect the academic community and the learning project itself, whatever our other political agendas. We cannot sacrifice this institution or this academic project to the vagaries of our other political agendas. This is what governs our actions as an executive.

The need to learn from past mistakes

Some may know that I worked at UDW in the 1990s. I was a general secretary of the union movement and an integral member of the concerned academic group. I, like some of you today, took positions against private security on campus, and to be fair, I too was sanguine about the violence perpetrated by the protesters and dissidents with whom I associated. Then too, a moment emerged when some believed that they could replace the university structures with revolutionary alternatives, where non-violence was a bourgeois distraction, and where the university could be sacrificed to the broader political project for egalitarianism. Then too, colleagues ignored the capability and legitimacy of the state to respond. I did not believe in and was not comfortable with the tactics used, although I must say that I did share (and still do) the commitment to the broader project of egalitarianism and free education for the poor. However, even though I was uncomfortable with the strategies and tactics, I was complacent about the violence and did not firmly enough register my opposition. Eventually the protesters did bring the university to a standstill through violence or the threat thereof. They did try to replace its statutory structures – the SRC, management, Senate and Council – with revolutionary alternatives. In the end, the state did move in, acted against the protesters and brought back stability to the campus. But the damage had been done. The university was intellectually decimated as its top students and academics had abandoned it. The middle and upper middle class student and academic activists, some with trust funds, slunk away. Some of the academics with second passports simply moved back to their home countries. By the time I left, the Faculty of Humanities had a single professor, who served as dean. The real casualties of this experiment were not the activists and academics who had romanticised violence, even though some of them individually suffered. It was the poor black students who had no other alternative but to continue to go to that university.

This is the real fear I have. I vowed then never to repeat that mistake. I will never remain silent and allow a culture of violence and ungovernability to prevail within an institution of learning. I will never remain silent when a university and its learning project is being sacrificed to broader political goals, however attractive they may be. I learnt then, through hard experience, the real responsibility of the academic in a transforming university.

Preventing an egalitarianism of poverty

I urge you to consider one other point. Many of us had the privilege to study in the universities of North America or Western Europe, some even in the Ivy leagues like Chicago and Yale. But if we are to address the inequalities of our world, including those in the academy, then it is essential that we establish our own research intensive universities. Wits should be one of these, not only because of our strong intellectual legacy, but also because of the fact that we are far more demographically representative than any of our research intensive peers. For us to succeed in our research intensive goals, however, we need to protect this institution as we navigate the current turbulent political times. We need to ensure that we make decisions and undertake trade-offs that do not unravel the foundations of our research intensive capabilities. We must not pursue a strategy of realising an egalitarianism of poverty for it would reinforce the very inequalities of our world. To avoid this, it is important to know our history, especially in higher education. It is important to learn about our experiments, failed and successful, at transformation and institutional reform. It is important to know this simply so that we can collectively learn from the mistakes of our past. I have seen some of the proposals recommending institutional reform, and I was struck by how often they seemed ignorant of our past experiments and de-contextualized from our realities.

Finally, the issues facing the entire university system are access and funding. These cannot be resolved immediately and independently by Wits as an institution. We do not have the resources to do so. The issue needs to be dealt with in a coordinated way – involving students and management and other actors in the national system. The current strategy of shutting down the University is, in our view, detrimental to the task of building a transformed and academically excellent institution. While we support the overall aims and want to build a powerful alliance, the current strategy is not one that the University management can support. While we respect and will protect the right to protest, at the same time we have to ensure that the University is able to continue with its core activities. This is our responsibility. There will be times when protesters embark on actions that challenge the functioning of the University in ways that have far-reaching effects. We then have the unenviable task of making difficult decisions in order to protect the rights of all students but particularly the poorest students who cannot afford the loss of the academic calendar. We have to facilitate access of all students to the University, even while protest unfolds.

I urge you to think through some of these issues, and I would be happy to engage further with any of you should you want to do so.

Professor Adam Habib on behalf of the Senior Executive Team of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

17 January 2016

[Download: An open letter to colleagues critical of campus safety and security arrangements]

Wits brings in additional security, obtains court order

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement at 16:00:

Wits University has deployed additional security and obtained an interim court order to ensure the safety and security of its staff, students and visitors, and the protection of its property.

The interim court order was granted in the South Gauteng High Court on Friday, 15 January 2016. 

In summary, the court order prevents anyone from:

  1. unlawfully occupying Senate House or any other offices, buildings, facilities or lecture halls;
  2. disrupting the normal activities of the University including registration, classes, lectures, tutorials;
  3. obstructing or preventing any person from entering or leaving the University or any of our buildings and facilities;
  4. causing damage to property;
  5. participating in, calling for, inciting or encouraging unlawful behaviour;
  6. harassing, intimidating, threatening or assaulting any person on campus; and
  7. being in possession of any dangerous weapons including knives, sticks or the like.

The order also empowers the University to bring the police onto campus if required.

Right to peaceful protest

The University respects the rights of students to lawful protest and the rights of those who wish to learn and work. This interim interdict does not stop legitimate protest.

Resurgence of student protests

The University recognises and supports the call for access to affordable, quality higher education and welcomes the ministerial commission that has been established to further explore this proposal.

Concessions

Government has made many concessions in recent months, including committing to cover the majority of costs related to the no-fee increase for 2016 and to clear the historical debt of qualifying students who received NSFAS in 2015.

Wits has also made significant compromises including delaying the first payment for those who cannot afford it, thereby removing a major financial barrier to registration. 

Disruptions and Security

Despite these concessions, the registration process was still obstructed on Monday by some students. There have also been serious threats made to the University and some staff. The University has thus brought additional security onto campus to ensure the safety and security of staff, students, visitors and others.

Wits remains open and willing to engage with students, staff, parents, alumni and anyone who has any issues of concern.

First fee payment and historical debt

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement at 13:00:

The University would like to clarify matters regarding firstly, the first fee payment and secondly, historical student debt.

Regarding the first fee payment, the University has put in place an arrangement, the details of which were communicated to all students last year. Students who can pay are being asked to do so. It is in their best interests, and in the best interests of the University. Students who cannot pay can fill in a form online indicating that they cannot pay, and the University will allow them to register. The first fee payment is therefore not an obstacle to registration for any student. Please access the self-service portal on the website.

Regarding historical debt, for all students who were on NSFAS in 2015, an agreement has been reached with the state. As per a statement issued by the Presidency, the historical debt of all students who were on NSFAS in 2015 will be settled by the state.

Students who were not on NSFAS in 2015 will unfortunately be obliged to clear their debt before they will be allowed to register. We would have liked to make a concession in this regard, but the historical debt of these students amounts to over R100 million and if we were to make such a concession, the University would be thrown into a financial crisis that would compromise the education of all students. We urge non-NSFAS students with historical debt to explore all avenues to enable them to settle their debt.

We respect the right to protest and we support the call for free education for poor students. However, we cannot allow the financial sustainability of the University to be compromised. We urge all students to allow the registration process to continue undisrupted.

Wits denies allegations that students were assaulted

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement:

The University has been made aware that some of the students who were evicted from the Ground Floor of Senate House this morning (Tuesday, 12 January 2015) are claiming that they were manhandled, assaulted and sexually harassed by security. 

The University vehemently denies these claims. As might be expected, during the eviction there were some scuffles. The eviction was captured on closed circuit television cameras and observed by managers. The University can make this footage available. A review of the footage will show that there is nothing there to support these claims. In fact the footage shows some protesters threatening others. Four security personnel were injured during the scuffles. 

The students were asked to vacate the Ground Floor of Senate House and were served with written notices to do so. They were given time to leave but refused to do so and were evicted this morning. 

These students were responsible for disrupting the registration process in Senate House yesterday. The occupation is unacceptable as it infringes on the rights of students who want to register, many of whom are the poorest of the poor that require assistance from the University. Many had travelled long distances from rural communities to register and were prevented from doing so. 

The disruption halted face to face registrations at Wits for two days. Many students have registered online and telephonically, and continue to do so. 

The University cannot allow a small group of students to stop the University’s registration processes and other activities. If we do so, we jeopardise the academic year and the futures of many young students who want to learn and prosper. 

It is important to realise that we cannot destroy the University and make it unsustainable. This will impact more on the poor rather than rich and will reinforce the very inequalities that we are trying to address. 

We respect the rights of those who wish to protest lawfully and peacefully without infringing on the rights of those who want to work and learn.

Registration update for students/guardians

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement at 13:30:

Given the disruptions to the University’s registration processes today, Monday, 11 January, the Senior Executive Team has decided to postpone face-to-face registrations at Hall 29 for today (Monday, 11 January 2016) and tomorrow (Tuesday, 12 January 2016). We are urging all Health Sciences students for today and all Engineering and the Built Environment students for tomorrow to register online. You will be able to do so until Friday, 15 January 2015. All other students will also still be able to register online, as per the normal schedule.

For those Health Sciences students and Engineering and the Built Environment students who are unable to register online, the University is putting in place a telephonic arrangement. For telephonic registrations, please call 011 717-1888, which will be active as of 15:00 this afternoon. Please note that there are large volumes of calls coming through, so if you have problems with your telephonic registration, please email registrar@wits.ac.za

For those who need to pay fees, please do so at a bank, providing your student number as a reference number.

The account details to use are as follows:

Standard Bank

Branch: Braamfontein

Branch code: 004805

Account No: 002891697

Reference: Student Number

Email: feesoffice.finance@wits.ac.za 

We are working towards re-activating face-to-face registrations at Hall 29 from Wednesday, 13 January 2015. We will communicate further in this regard.

Students from the Faculties of Science, Humanities, and Commerce, Law and Management are urged to register online or to wait for further communication regarding the re-activation of face-to-face registration.

University activities continue through day without disruptions

- Wits University

Study venues and computer labs on campus that stay open after 10pm announced.

Dear Students and Colleagues

University activities

All university activities went ahead today without any reports of disruption.

Computer labs that can be accessed after 10pm

Following the requests of many students to continue using learning venues and computer labs after 10pm, the University has agreed to keep the following venues open and available to students. Students will have to be in these venues before 10pm and on completion of their use of the facilities, will be escorted back to their residences by Campus Control, who will be stationed at the door of these facilities. For all other reasons, the restrictions will remain in place from 10pm until 6am. All other special requests for students to be out of residences and walking on campus after 10pm must be channeled via the Registrar via Carol.Crosley@wits.ac.za. The 24-hour numbers for any emergency is (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666.

The venues are:

Braamfontein Campus East

CNS PG Lab – SH1029, 1st Floor, West Wing, Senate House

CNS UG Lab – SH1101, 1st Floor, West Wing, Senate House

Braamfontein Campus West

CNS UG Lab – CLM1, Commerce, Law & Management Building

D Lab – Ground Floor, Chamber of Mines Building

Wits Education Campus

CNS UG Lab- GLASS LAB01, Marang Block, Ground Floor

Wits Health Sciences Campus

CNS UG Lab – MS-01A, 3rd Floor, Medical School

Wits Management Campus

Computer laboratories open for postgraduate students as normal.

Engagement

We remain open to engagement and negotiation as we believe that these issues can only be resolved through negotiated outcomes. Our sole focus must be on the completion of the academic programme in the next two weeks.

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

17 OCTOBER 2016 (17:00)

Wits staff to return on Monday, academic programme to resume on Tuesday

- Wits University

Phased opening of the University follows several engagements with a range of stakeholders, including students.

Dear Colleagues/Students

The Senior Executive Team of the University of the Witwatersrand announced today that Wits will reopen this week as follows:

  1. All staff will return to work tomorrow, Monday 3 October 2016.
  2. The academic programme will resume on Tuesday, 4 October 2016.

The phased opening follows several engagements with a range of stakeholders, including students, where we ceded to requests for a phased opening this week.

Safety and Security

The presence of private security and police on campus is not ideal and we understand that students and academics are not comfortable with academic activities occurring in an environment with a visible security presence.

However, we are left with no choice at this stage but to bring additional security onto campus. We will request the police to remain on the perimeter of the campus this week, unless there is a need to bring them onto campus, or there is risk to life or property.

We commit to gradually reducing the security presence provided that:

-          University activities continue without disruption,

-          there is no violence, intimidation or threat to students and staff,

-          there is no destruction of property, and

-          anyone who breaks University rules or violates the Constitutional rights of others are immediately held accountable.

We are willing to consider withdrawing private security and the police if the protesting students undertake not to impinge on the rights of those who wish to learn and work.

There is much misinformation on social media and we encourage students and staff to obtain their information from official University channels - the Wits website, staff and student emails and Wits' social media channels - @Wits_News, @WitsUniversity and the University's Facebook page.

We urge staff and students to work with us as we reopen this week. Together, we can still save the 2016 academic year, while continuing the struggle for free education for the poor and the so-called missing middle.

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

2 OCTOBER 2016

Preliminary staff poll results

- Wits University

Wits SET announcement on preliminary staff poll results.

Dear Colleagues

There have been several enquiries from staff members wanting to know the results of the staff poll. We still do not have the final report from the auditors, but a preliminary letter from them indicates that of the approximately 2200 staff that responded, 91% were in favour of reopening tomorrow, Monday, 3 October 2016 while 8% did not want classes to go ahead. About 1% of those who responded, did so with a blank email.

We are expecting the full report tomorrow, after which a detailed update will be circulated.

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

SUNDAY, 2 OCTOBER 2016 (14:00)

Free mobile data for students

- Wits University

Telkom, Cell C, Vodacom and MTN have agreed to provide mobile data services for students to access academic material until the end of the year.

Telkom is already active and Vodacom should be active by Friday. MTN and Cell C are still to be activated.

How does it work?

Students with a mobile prepaid or post-paid SIM card will be allowed to access selected Wits websites, Sakai and e-learning sites without paying for data consumption. The service is free within the borders of South Africa. Any roaming charges will have to be paid for by the subscriber (student). The network will log and monitor the data usage and report on it but will not charge the user or the University for the use.

Which sites can students access without paying?

Students will not pay for access to the following sites:

Sakai - LMS https://cle.wits.ac.za

Library https://www.wits.ac.za/library/

Library resources https://innopac.wits.ac.za  

MyWits https://www.wits.ac.za/mywits/

Bus timetable http://www.witsbus.co.za

Password reset registration https://passwordregistration.wits.ac.za

Password reset https://passwordreset.wits.ac.za

Self-service for students https://self-service.wits.ac.za/

Wits dining https://witsapps.wits.ac.za/witsdining/

School of Therapeutic Sciences - LMS http://stselearning.health.wits.ac.za/moodle

Update from the Senior Executive Team (17:00):

Academic programme 

The academic programme continued today without disruption. 

Incidents 

A fire was started in the Library on the Wits Education Campus this morning resulting in the burning of a shelf of books. Fortunately the fire was extinguished quickly and the damage was minimal. The police and Campus Control are investigating the incident.  

Arrests and suspensions

The University has learnt that two individuals, one of whom is a Wits student, were arrested by the police on charges related to public violence and arson two days ago. We have been informed that they are being held at the Hillbrow Police Station. 

We have initiated the suspension process for the Wits student. In the last four weeks, 13 students have been suspended.

Students urged to return to class to save academic year

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (10:00):

The majority of lectures resumed this morning but were then disrupted by large groups of protestors in Parktown and Braamfontein. Some shops in the Matrix have been shut down. The police are present and security has been deployed to manage the situation. 

We would also like to clarify the following, which students claim are the internal issues for the protests:

  • Management has engaged several times with student leaders directly and through mediators throughout last week, to no avail.
  • We are open to the idea of an imbizo, provided that it is a two way engagement, chaired by a neutral facilitator, with a specific time frame, and not in front of cameras. This imbizo should not impact on the academic programme.
  • No student will be barred from writing examinations because of unpaid fees.
  • Senate has approved a new academic calendar and examination timetable and it will be made available to all students and staff in the next few days.
  • Amnesty will not be considered for anyone involved in criminal activities.  
  • In Parktown, we need to move people out of the PKV2 residence so that we can build more classrooms. We have secured two other residences to accommodate these students, introduced hundreds of new beds and agreed not to move any students until the University closes for the holidays.
  • The University has committed to the principle of working towards free education. We have no authority to implement this but are willing to advocate for support from relevant stakeholders.  
  • We are comfortable to hold a general assembly once consensus is reached with the students on the issue of free education. 

We urge students and staff to return to classes this week, even if disruptions occur. We understand that there may be disruptions, but we have no choice but to try to save the academic year.

University management update [11:30]

- Wits University

Statement from the Senior Executive Team on actions taken following disruptions on Monday:

We extend our deepest appreciation to all staff and students for exercising patience and restraint yesterday, under difficult circumstances. Despite the disruptive actions of the group of 150 individuals, teaching, learning and research continued on most campuses. We thank you for your perseverance in this regard.

The University is documenting all unlawful incidents and we are asking students and staff who may have witnessed or been subjected to such unlawful conduct to report these incidents to Campus Control on (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666 so that they can be investigated.

We have taken the following action to ensure that University activities continue without disruption:

  1. The University issued three suspension orders yesterday, with two more orders to be issued later today. 
  2. All non-Wits members who were involved in unlawful activities yesterday and who could be identified have been barred from our campuses. 
  3. Strict access controls are in place and students and staff are required to produce their cards when entering the University. Visitors will have to sign in via security.
  4. Additional security has been brought onto campus, and will remain in place until management decides otherwise. The South African Police Service (SAPS) is also on standby.
  5. The SAPS has been requested to investigate the incident of arson that occurred on campus yesterday.

University activities have continued without disruption on all campuses this morning (Tuesday. 5 April 2016).

Remember, if you feel unsafe, threatened or intimidated in any way, or wish to report an incident, please make your way to the nearest Campus Control Office or call the following numbers:

Campus Control emergency numbers:

Braamfontein Campus

Room 1, Central Block (Great Hall) – Main Control Room (CB1)

011 717 4444 / 011 717 6666

Health Sciences Campus, Parktown

Control Room

011 717 2222 / 011 717 2232

Education Campus, Parktown

Control Room

011 717 3340

Management Campus, Parktown

Guard House

011 717 3589

SET position on quality, free higher education

- Wits University

Wits SET clarifies its position on quality, free higher education.

There have been several calls from students and staff for the Senior Executive Team to clarify its position on free education.

The Senior Executive Team supports the call for access to quality, free higher education for the poor and the so-called missing middle. In this regard, management commits to working towards this goal with all stakeholders in the sector, including student leaders.

We are willing to consult with the leaders of various constituencies on this matter, and if there is broad consensus from the University community, a General Assembly, through the resolution of Council, can be called within the next two weeks to solidify Wits’ stance on this issue. If consensus is reached by all constituencies and a decision is taken at the General Assembly for the University to participate in a public protest, then the executive management will support such a public demonstration.

The University further commits to working with the leaders of relevant stakeholders in the sector to engage on this matter at the national level.

It would be opportune to build on the work of staff and students compiled and presented by Professor Hlonipha Mokoena to the Heher Commission which puts forward models on how South Africa can progressively achieve free education for the poor and what is referred to as the missing middle.

The transformation of the curriculum is a key component of the University’s transformation programme, and a matter that the University will continue to prioritise.

A further statement on whether the University will reopen tomorrow will follow at 17:00.

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

2 OCTOBER 2016 (13:00)

Wits is fast-tracking the NSFAS appeals process

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement on appeals process.

We are aware that some students are anxious about the appeals relating to their application for financial aid. 

The deadline for all students to submit their appeals and ALL documentation (that is properly certified) is 18 February 2016. Please ensure that all documentation is submitted and certified as stipulated on the application form. 

We are doing all that we can to ensure that the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) appeals process is fast-tracked. Through the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office (FASO), we have appointed a special team to review all documentation without delay. The Committee will be reviewing all appeals, giving priority to those whose documents are in order and will accelerate the applications of those who need access to residence. 

You will be contacted via telephone, email or SMS regarding the outcome of your application. We do however encourage you to regularly visit the Student Self-Service Portal to check the status of your appeal. 

The deadline for appeals and the submission of all documentation (certified) is 18 February 2016.  

The appeals process will be complete by the 28th of February 2016 at the latest.

University committed to peaceful negotiations to find solutions

- Wits University

Wits stays committed to solving issues, which can only be resolved at national level.

STATEMENT FROM WITS UNIVERSITY

The Executive Management Team of Wits University was invited to attend a meeting of peace hosted by the Academic Staff Association of Wits University, church leaders and others at the Holy Trinity Church today.

We were asked to attend the meeting and through our presence to indicate our support for peaceful resolution and constructive negotiation. We have always said that we are open to engaging with students. We have repeatedly been accused of not wanting to meet students. We have reached out on several occasions and today is an example of where we were once again willing to engage, to no avail. We have met with several students and student leaders directly and we will continue to do so in the hope of finding a peaceful, negotiated settlement.

“We are disappointed that people felt that we should exit the peace meeting even after we had been invited to attend it,” says Professor Adam Habib, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal. “We remain committed to working with students and student leaders in trying to find solutions to these issues, many of which can only be resolved at the national level. We recognise that passions are inflamed and that we should not take the reactions of some student leaders personally.”

We remain committed to completing the 2016 academic year while at the same time trying to address issues related to the funding and transformation of the higher education sector. We will continue to protect the University community to ensure that staff, students and our infrastructure are safe and that the academic programme continues.

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

19 OCTOBER 2016 (17:00)

Classes resume at Wits tomorrow

- Wits University

Talks to reach a negotiated settlement with protesting students ongoing.

Dear Colleagues / Students

Thank you for bearing with us today, a very difficult day for the University. Thank you to those who worked, attended lectures and supported us this week. We were partially successful today and the academic programme will reopen again tomorrow.

We are currently involved in talks via former SRC presidents and the clergy in an attempt to reach a negotiated settlement with protesting students.

The academic programme started this morning but was disrupted around mid-morning by a group of 500 students. While the police managed to disband groups of protesters early this morning, they could not do so when the group became too large.

We understand that there was a major breach where a gate was brought down near the Roman Catholic Church on the East Campus through which students and others entered the campus.

The police tried to disperse the crowd and this resulted in several clashes between the police, private security and students. Unfortunately, several students, one staff member and five policemen were injured and treated by the Campus Health and Wellness Centre. One lecturer was taken to hospital and has been treated.

We know that some buildings, particularly on the West Campus were not protected when they should have been and that the windows of several cars were damaged. We are reviewing camera footage and will ensure that we hold those responsible for the damage accountable.

There are also reports of students not being allowed to leave residences and threats of disruption of buses travelling to clinical sites – these matters were resolved.

We know that the majority of students and staff want classes to continue and it is for this reason that we will once again resume the academic programme tomorrow.

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

4 OCTOBER 2016 (18:00)

Agreement reached - Academic Programme to resume on Monday, 10 October 2016

- Wits University

Update from Senior Executive Team - 04.10.16 (22:00)

Dear Students / Colleagues

We recognise that we sent you a communique earlier today telling you that the University would be open tomorrow. However, during this evening’s negotiations with former leaders of the Black Student Society and SRCs, supported by clergy, we agreed to mediated negotiations between student groups, university management and other role players.

To enable this process to continue, we have agreed to suspend the academic programme with a common objective to resume it in full on Monday, 10 October 2016.

We have made this concession because we do not want the scenes that played out on our University campuses today, to be repeated. Such scenes put our students and staff on edge and do not enable a full resumption of the academic programme. If a negotiated outcome can achieve this end, then we will be all the stronger as a University community. The student constituency is as committed as we are to salvaging the 2016 academic year.

We have agreed to withdraw the police to the perimeter of the University’s campuses under the express commitment from all parties that there will be no violence or intimidation of students and staff.

For the remainder of this week, former leaders of the Black Student Society and SRCs, supported by clergy, will facilitate and mediate a process of consensus building between student groups, university management and other role players with a view towards having a General Assembly on Friday, 7 October 2016. Such an Assembly would be chaired by the Chancellor and would focus on a consensual position on the principle of full access to higher education.

We understand that some individuals may not be entirely happy about this decision, but we truly believe that if we can get a negotiated outcome, it will be in the broader interests of all stakeholders and saving the 2016 academic year.

Senior Executive Team
University of the Witwatersrand
4 October 2016 (22:00)

General Assembly postponed

- Wits University

Urgent announcement from the Statement from the Senior Executive Team (08:30):

It is with deep regret that we announce the postponement of the General Assembly that was to be held today.

This week, we suspended the academic programme and dedicated all our resources towards building a consensus within the University community in order to be able to resume the academic programme on Monday. We had reached consensus with all University constituencies including Council, Senate, Convocation, labour and staff, but not with the protesting students.

Despite all our attempts and the energetic engagement of former Black Student Society and SRC leaders, the mediation process with the protesting students was unsuccessful.

A congregation of the General Assembly is called when the University community has reached consensus on a particular issue. In this case, there has been no consensus from all constituencies and no agreement from the protesting students that the academic programme will continue on Monday.

The protesting students effectively want the General Assembly and the march to the Constitutional Court to continue, without committing that the academic programme will commence on Monday, as previously promised.

One of the latest demands of the protesting students is that Wits and all other universities should be shut down until government agrees to free education.

In addition, there has been no agreement from the protesting students on the format of the General Assembly. They are seeking direct engagement from the floor. Our concern in this regard is that it may create unnecessary tension between students themselves and other stakeholders, raising security risks and serving as a symbol of disunity for the University.

There is also a risk that the safety and security of those attending the General Assembly today cannot be guaranteed.

We will postpone the General Assembly until consensus is reached and the conditions for such an Assembly are met. We remain committed to the pledge and the march, and should conditions enable this, we would be happy to proceed.

The University has dedicated many resources in preparation for this major event, including negotiating the pledge that was to be read out today, ensuring the availability of key role-players, and losing out on another week of lectures.

We thank the mediators for their time, their patience and their insight in their attempts to reach consensus on a matter of national importance. They spent countless hours trying to obtain consensus from all constituencies this week.

A Council meeting will be called this weekend after which a way forward for the University will be determined. We regret any convenience caused.

Class attendance growing amidst protests

- Wits University

Update on incidents on campus and list of study venues open at night.

Dear Colleagues and Students

Academic activities

Attendance was high in the majority of lectures yesterday. The academic programme continues today as per the academic calendar.

Incidents

There were several skirmishes last night between a group of protesting students and police near the Men’s Residence last night. Some students blocked the road from the Matrix to the Old Mutual Sports Hall with rocks. The police removed the rocks. Windows at the Sports Hall were also broken. The protesting group then threw a petrol bomb at a police van and pelted the police with rocks. Many fires were also started in dustbins. A van belonging to a service provider was overturned. A case was opened last night and the police are investigating the matter. No injuries were reported.

Missing student

The missing student returned to his residence yesterday and has made contact with his House Committee and Warden. The student was taken to a clinic and he was offered counselling. The Dean of Students has reached out to the student but he has refused to meet with any member of management. The University will ask him to lay a formal complaint so that the matter can be investigated.  

Computer labs that can be accessed after 10pm

Following the requests of many students to continue using learning venues and computer labs after 10pm, the University has agreed to keep the following venues open and available to students. Students will have to be in these venues before 10pm and on completion of their use of the facilities, will be escorted back to their residences by Campus Control, who will be stationed at the door of these facilities. For all other reasons, the restrictions will remain in place from 10pm until 6am. All other special requests for students to be out of residences and walking on campus after 10pm must be channelled via the Registrar via Carol.Crosley@wits.ac.za. The 24-hour number for any emergency is (011) 717-4444.

The venues are:

Braamfontein Campus East

CNS PG Lab – SH1029, 1st Floor, West Wing, Senate House

CNS UG Lab – SH1101, 1st Floor, West Wing, Senate House

Braamfontein Campus West

CNS UG Lab – CLM1, Commerce, Law & Management Library Building

D Lab – Ground Floor, Chamber of Mines Building

Wits Education Campus

CNS UG Lab- GLASS LAB01, Marang Block, Ground Floor

Wits Health Sciences Campus

CNS UG Lab – MS-01A, 3rd Floor, Medical School

Wits Management Campus

Computer laboratories open for postgraduate students as normal.

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

18 OCTOBER 2016 (10:00)

Interim court order extended

- Wits University

The interim court order, issued 15 January 2016, will remain in effect until 25 April 2016 when the matter will be heard on the opposed roll.

View a copy of the Interim Court Order on 1 February 2016.

Statement on disruptions and classes today

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (13:00):

Following the disruption of classes on the Parktown and Braamfontein campuses this morning, hundreds of students gathered outside the Great Hall, demanding access to Solomon House, even though we had allocated designated areas for protest. 

The students started throwing sizeable rocks that could have maimed or killed people. The police dispersed the crowd using stun grenades, teargas and water cannons. Some of the crowd remain outside the Great Hall while others have since dispersed into Braamfontein. Two arrests were made this morning and some minor injuries have been reported. 

The Dean of Students engaged with the student leaders and asked them to put forward 20 representatives to engage with management. The students did not take up this offer. 

The University offered to hold an imbizo, a two way engagement facilitated by a neutral facilitator within a time frame. However, this cannot be brought about through threats. We cannot allow students to violate the rules of the University and bring about an imbizo through threats. This is not democratic behaviour. 

Several of Wits’ classes on various campuses are continuing today, albeit with low numbers. Where Heads of Schools are comfortable for the academic programme to continue, classes should resume. Please inform the Head of Security and your respective Dean if you wish to continue classes so that appropriate security measures can be put in place. 

Further communication will follow this afternoon.

Lectures continued today

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (13:30):

The majority of lectures took place this morning, albeit with a low turnout – we thank all students and staff who attended classes today. We will share figures later today. 

Groups of students remain on the piazza and outside the Wartenweiler Library and police are trying to disperse them using stun grenades and water cannons. The police are managing the situation on the ground. 

For your own safety, staff and students are encouraged not to congregate near possible conflict areas.

Warning against scam phone calls

- Wits University

University warns students against anonymous calls, threatening students with expulsion.

ANONYMOUS CALLS TO STUDENTS

It has come to our notice that anonymous calls purporting to be from the University are being made to students, threatening them with expulsion. Please note that the University does not make anonymous calls to students regarding their academic status. University officials will identify themselves to students and will usually invite a student to a discussion on any issue pertaining to academic matters.

FREE MOBILE DATA TO HELP STUDENTS STUDY

The four major mobile operators in South Africa – Telkom, Cell C, Vodacom and MTN have agreed to provide mobile data services for students to access academic material until the end of the year. Telkom and Vodacom are active and MTN and Cell C should be activated shortly.

How does it work?

Students with a mobile prepaid or post-paid SIM card will be allowed to access selected Wits websites, Sakai and e-learning sites without paying for data consumption. The service is free within the borders of South Africa. Any roaming charges will have to be paid for by the subscriber (student). The network will log and monitor the data usage and report on it but will not charge the user or the University for the use.

Which sites can students access without paying?

Students will not pay for access to the following sites:

Sakai - LMS                                                                      https://cle.wits.ac.za

Library                                                                              https://www.wits.ac.za/library/

Library resources                                                            https://innopac.wits.ac.za  

MyWits                                                                            https://www.wits.ac.za/mywits/

Bus timetable                                                                  http://www.witsbus.co.za

Password reset registration                                          https://passwordregistration.wits.ac.za

Password reset                                                                https://passwordreset.wits.ac.za

Self-service for students                                       https://self-service.wits.ac.za/

Wits dining                                                                      https://witsapps.wits.ac.za/witsdining/

School of Therapeutic Sciences - LMS                          http://stselearning.health.wits.ac.za/moodle

The Wits My Labs Plus Educations Service has also just been added to the list of URLs for which students won’t pay.

 

Mediators say student leaders won't attend meeting

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (17:00):

The mediators have just informed Wits management that the student leaders will not be attending today's meeting. 

We apologise to all those who were preparing to watch it via live streaming or on the Concourse.

Access cards are for students and staff use only

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (10:00):

Academic programme

All tests, lectures and University activities went ahead without disruption yesterday. The academic programme continues as per the academic calendar today.

Incidents

No incidents were reported overnight.

Student/staff access cards

In recent weeks we have noticed that individuals linked to some criminal activities on our campuses have entered using active student cards. We would like to remind all students and staff that it is a serious violation of the University’s rules to allow anyone to use your access card.

You are not allowed to ‘swipe’ anyone through a turnstile.

Students and staff who allow others to use their access cards may be charged for misconduct. Appropriate action will be taken against anyone caught using an access card that does not belong to them.

Please remember to report any lost or stolen cards to Campus Control immediately so that the card can be deactivated if necessary.

Agreement to open dialogue

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (10:00):

University activities 

All University activities go ahead today as planned. No incidents were reported overnight.

Management's engagement with students

Student leaders and Wits management agreed last night to meet to open dialogue on the issue of access to quality, free, decolonised higher education.

The meeting will be livestreamed via streaming.wits.ac.za

Students will elect a delegation of 20 to meet with representatives of the Senior Executive Team including the Vice-Chancellor and Principal and the Dean of Students. 

All parties agreed that the meeting will be held today and will be livestreamed. The parties are working via the mediators to determine an appropriate venue.

The students requested that the meeting be held on the Ground Floor of Solomon Mahlangu House today. Management has agreed to this request but only from 17:00 onwards so that lectures and University activities in the building are not compromised today. Otherwise, an alternative venue  may be found. 

We are waiting for confirmation of the meeting details from the mediator and will share these once they are confirmed. 

The parties agreed to meet in good faith to charter a way forward that is beneficial to all.

Designated areas for protests 

The designated areas for protests for everyone are as follows: 

  • Wits Education Campus – Outside the Linder Auditorium and cafeteria
  • Wits Braamfontein Campus – On the Piazza outside the Great Hall 

We will keep you updated as the day progresses.

Update from Senior Executive Team

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team on the situation on campus during student protests.

Disruptions to some classes

We have reports that about 200 students in roving groups are moving from campus to campus disrupting classes in Braamfontein and Parktown and intimidating students. We are deploying security and the police to follow the group and we are monitoring the situation on camera from the Joint Operations Centre. Students will be arrested if they do not comply with police orders. If lectures are disrupted, we ask students and lecturers to leave the venue and then to resume classes once the group has moved on.

Remember to do the following: 

1. Remain calm and advise your students to do the same. Do not incite, antagonise or provoke persons causing the disruption.

2. If there is any physical threat to students, fellow colleagues or yourself, vacate the room immediately. 

a)When leaving a venue make sure that it is safe to do so and make your way to a safe area.

b) If you are in a multi-level building, briskly follow the escape route direction indicators until you are able to find your way out of the building to a safe area

c) Assist visitors, students and disabled persons to leave the occupied/disrupted area

d) Call Campus Control and report the incident.

3. If there is no immediate physical threat, ask students to remain seated and call Campus Control.

4. If you are prevented from leaving a building, lecture room, office or any other University area, call Campus Control and await assistance and/or instructions from Campus Control.

5. Campus Control will have personnel dedicated to answering the numbers listed below. They will immediately deploy a rapid response team closest to your area to attend to the incident.

6. Campus Control will summon emergency personnel to the scene as required.

7. Report all incidents to Campus Control in as much detail as possible.

8. Refer any students or staff members who require medical assistance to the Campus Health and Wellness Centre.

9. Please always obey the instructions provided by Campus Control.

Should you feel unsafe, threatened or intimidated in any way, or wish to report an incident, please make your way to the nearest Campus Control Office or call the following numbers: 

Campus Control Emergency Numbers

Campus

Location

Numbers

Braamfontein Campus

Room 1, Central Block (Great Hall)  – Main Control Room (CB1)

011 717 4444 / 011 717 6666

Health Sciences Campus, Parktown

Control Room

011 717 2222 / 011 717 2232

Education Campus, Parktown

Control Room

011 717 3340

Management Campus, Parktown

Guard House

011 717 3589

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

20 SEPTEMBER 2016

Academic calendar and graduations

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (16:30):

Academic programme 

The majority of classes continued today across all campuses without disruption, and with better attendance than yesterday. Thank you to those who attended and taught classes today. 

Senate approved last week that the academic calendar would be extended by two weeks. 

  • Term ends: 31 October
  • Study break: 1 - 2 November
  • Examinations: 3 - 30 November

Examination timetables 

The final Oct-Nov 2016 examination timetable has been published on the Wits website and the student portal. You can obtain your personalised timetable from the student portal. The revised Wits School of Education examination timetable will be made available soon. 

Please note that no student will be prevented from writing examinations for financial reasons. 

Graduations 

Some graduations for 2016 have been rescheduled. Please visit the graduations webpage for details. 

Wits’ pledge on free education  

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

Management’s engagement with protesting students 

We reiterate that we have met with student leaders from various student structures and societies. 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, but the protesting students did not take up 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 have communicated with the Students’ Representative Council in this regard. 

We are happy to address all internal issues as described earlier but it is beyond our control to give students free education now.

Students injured in protests

- Wits University

95% of all classes went ahead as scheduled across all campuses.

Update on the academic programme

About 95% of all classes went ahead at Wits today, across all campuses.

Incidents

A test in the Flower Hall on the Wits West Campus was disrupted by protestors just after midday today. This was due to a lapse in security around these venues this morning. The tests scheduled for the remainder of the day went ahead without disruption. All test venues and lecture theatres will be secured going forward.

Today, protesting students entered Flower Hall and tore up test papers towards the end of a chemical engineering test. They then made their way to the New Commerce Building where they disrupted lectures before making their way to the Science Stadium. Police dispersed the protesting group using teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. Four students were injured by rubber bullets and were treated along with several other students at the Campus Health and Wellness Centre. Two students had to be taken to hospital.

Additional venues for study purposes open tonight

The reading rooms in both the Wartenweiler and Commerce Libraries will be open for use by students tonight. Both rooms have wireless  hotspots to ensure access to e-resources and services.

 

Wits academic programme continues

- Wits University

Business as usual at Wits after the announcement by Minister of Higer Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, regarding fee increases.

STATEMENT FROM THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM – 18:30

Academic programme continues tomorrow

As you are aware, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, recommended an 8% increase in university fees for 2017, and publicly committed to pay that increase for any student who has a family income of less than R600 000 per annum. This recommendation will serve at our Council meeting on 30 September 2016. In the coming days, we will engage with all stakeholders in this regard with a view to developing consensus on the issue.

Some students rejected this recommendation by the Minister and decided to embark on protests that involved some disruption of classes and some closures of entrances. Campus control and private security tried to contain these protests and public order police were called in to clear the entrances. This was done by around 5pm and traffic was allowed to flow without disruption although inconvenience was caused to individuals in the hours before. Staff and some students did at times get annoyed, but overall most people behaved in a measured way.

We do want members of the University community to recognise that in circumstances such as this it is important to get the balance right in managing the protest. If we are too heavy handed, it could backfire. If we are too soft, then it could embolden the violation of rights of others. This is the difficulty we have to manage, and when confronted in circumstances like this, we urge all members of the University community to be patient and to work with us so that we can address the challenge as quickly as is possible.

Our priority, it must be remembered, is to keep the academic programme intact. The future of too many students and families depend on their performance at university, and we should do all that is possible to ensure that the academic programme is protected. This is why we kept the University open and why we will continue to do so. We have beefed up security even further and have finalised protocols with the police to ensure that safety and security is in place at Wits. Security at lecture venues, laboratories and libraries has been strengthened. Please report incidents to (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666 or (011) 717-1873.

We have also come to an agreement with the student leadership. This entails the following: they will be allowed to use the Concourse in Solomon Mahlangu House (Senate House) between 5 and 10 pm. They have committed not to block entrances and not to disrupt classes. Should anyone do so, the University will act appropriately to protect our community and environment through a range of measures, including suspensions and arrests. It is important to reiterate that while we will protect the right to protest, we will not condone the violation of the rights of others and the destruction of property. It is important that the student leadership recognises that their responsibility is to the entire student body and not only to a narrow section of it.

Please note that tomorrow is business as usual. We will have heightened security measures to ensure the safety and the protection of all. There may, as a result, be minor inconveniences experienced and we ask you to bear with us in this regard. Please note that we will allow protests so long as they are peaceful and do not violate the rights of the University community.

Communiques will come out regularly in the coming days to keep all members of the University community up to date on developments. Please also follow @Wits_News and @WitsUniversity for updates. We thank all members of the community for their patience and forbearance in these difficult times. Know however, that we as a community can only grow stronger through the collective resolution of these challenges.

Sincerely

Senior Executive Team

19 September 2016

Wits completes lectures for 2016

- Wits University

Message from the Senior Executive Team (09:00):

We write to you today in deep appreciation for your support in enabling Wits University to complete the lecture schedule of the 2016 academic year. 

We know that it has not been an easy journey given the disruptions, criminal acts, intimidation and threats, and the violence. 

We are also acutely aware of, and at times humbled by, the determination of the majority of students and staff who want to learn and work, those who made it to classes, offices and laboratories every day despite the odds. All of you stood firm in the face of adversity and soldiered on to empower others. 

We thank all those who went beyond the call of duty in recent weeks, at all hours, under extremely stressful conditions, for your dedicated service to ensure the conclusion of the academic programme. Your commitment and resilience is recognised. 

Rights and responsibilities

We understand that every member of the Wits community has been affected by the recent events on our campuses be it through experiencing trauma, hurt or anxiety. The rights of many students and staff were violated and we have taken a decision to hold accountable those responsible for these cowardly acts. 

We acknowledge that the majority of members of the University community support a fairer fee dispensation and that it is only a very small minority who have acted violently. This applies to students, members of staff and employees of outsourced service providers who perform acts of violence on campus. Increasingly it has become clear that for this group, violence is an end in itself. 

The University’s normal rules make provision for individuals who are unable to write exams for good reason and these individual may apply for deferments from their respective faculty. 

Completion of 2016 lectures

The decisions that we made have had implications for the entire University community. We did the best with the information that we had at hand, and we recognise that we didn’t always get it right. 

We know that there are times when we let you down, when our security didn’t hold, or when events didn’t always go according to plan. We apologise for these lapses. 

However, despite these shortcomings, we have collectively succeeded in completing the lecture schedule for the 2016 academic programme. While the first day or two of the resumption of the academic programme resulted in significant disruption, the lecture programme consistently improved since then with the result that, overall, only a small proportion of our lectures and tests were disrupted. These have subsequently been addressed by schools and faculties. 

This, together with our decision to extend the academic year by two weeks, allows us to comfortably conclude the lectures on the firm knowledge that despite some of the disruptions, the substantive content and skills of our academic programme have been duly imparted. 

If we hadn’t persevered in this regard, we would have had to shut down the University with disastrous consequences for the 37 000 students and thousands of our staff. It would have created enormous problems for those who desperately need to graduate, for those passing to the next year, for those that need to access the labour market and for those on financial aid, scholarships and bursaries. 

It would also have compromised admissions next year for the thousands of students in schools who would want to come to Wits and other universities. 

Our decision to persevere was not only in the interests of the majority of our students and staff, but also of the country as a whole.

 

Examinations go ahead as planned

Our next challenge is to ensure that our examination period runs successfully, and we will once again need the assistance of all academics, professional and administrative staff and students to see it through without incident. 

We have developed comprehensive security plans for the examinations and all of which will be written with the appropriate security protocols in place. 

Details of the examination programme will be distributed this afternoon from the Office of the Registrar and by the respective Faculty Registrars. 

Please ensure that you access your Wits email for important updates and stay in touch with your faculty and school. 

We want to assure all students that you are entitled to write examinations even if you have outstanding fees. 

There are very specific rules that govern our examination processes. The examination schedule is not decided by any single individual. 

It is approved by all of the appropriate structures in the University, including the Faculty boards and the Senate.

This decision-making process is governed by legislation, including the Statute of the University. 

All of these academic governance structures have decided to continue with the examinations with the appropriate levels of security. We believe that this is in the interests of the majority of students. 

Security and police on campus

We have no choice but to continue with security on our campuses. This is not an ideal situation. 

However, we have repeatedly said that if student leaders and protestors commit publicly to no disruption of the academic programme, no destruction of property and no violence and intimidation of students and staff, we will remove private security and the police from our campuses. 

Access to education and engagement with students

The issues pertaining to the underfunding and transformation of the higher education sector remain, and these are matters that can only be resolved by the state at the national level. 

As an institution, however, we remain committed to engaging with students, staff, the state, the private sector, civil society and other social actors to tackle underfunding and transformation, while completing the examinations and the 2016 academic year. 

We remain committed to the pledge we made in recent weeks in this regard. 

Conclusion

We will endeavour to do all that we can to ensure that we successfully conclude this year but we need your full support to reach our collective goals. We thank you for your continued commitment in this regard.

Examinations to continue as scheduled

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (10:00):

Interdict 

A group of students launched an urgent application to interdict the examinations at Wits University. The matter was heard in the South Gauteng High Court yesterday. Judgement will be handed down tomorrow Thursday, 3 November 2016. 

The University confirms that examinations will continue as scheduled. 

The University has informed individuals who have good reason not to sit for an examination, that the individuals can apply for a deferred examination.

Safety and security during examinations

Please note that in order to ensure the safety and security of students during the examination period and to ensure that examinations are not disrupted, additional security checks have been put in place. Vehicles, bags and people may be searched before entering venues.

Toiletry bags will be accommodated and female security officers will be on hand to assist with the searches. While we strongly discourage students from bringing bags to examination venues, they will be accommodated outside examination venues if required. Please refrain from storing valuables in bags.

Social activities

We remind all students and staff that as per our usual policies, no social activities are allowed during the examination period.

Statement from Wits University in response to Minister's announcement on 2017 fee increment

- Wits University

The University of the Witwatersrand notes the announcement made by Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education and Training today.

 The Minister recommend that universities implement a maximum increase of 8%, but the state will subsidise for all those with a family income less than R600 000 per annum. The University will analyse the recommendations and will consult with relevant University stakeholders before making recommendations to Council.

 The academic programme and all University activities continue as planned. Additional security has been brought onto campus and the police are on standby. We remind all colleagues and students that an interdict remains in place to protect staff, students and University property.

We respect the rights of those who may wish to protest around these issues, provided that it does not infringe on the rights of those who wish to learn and work. All protests should be undertaken in line with the University's rules and the rights and responsibilities of all, as outlined in our Constitution. 

Please report any disruptions or incidents to Campus Control on (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666. We urge members of the Wits community to engage in thoughtful and meaningful ways on these important issues.

 

University is reviewing 2016 Medium Term Budget announcement

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (17:00):

Academic Programme 

The academic programme went ahead today without disruption. 

Incidents 

No incidents were reported on our campuses today. 

Medium Term Budget Policy Statement 

Wits is still reviewing the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) and associated documents. A quick reading indicates that with regard to higher education, the MTBPS addresses the funding needs of the poor and the missing middle that has been prioritised by the Minister of Higher Education and Training. 

The Finance Minister announced the following pertaining to higher education in his speech. He made a plea for the violence to stop and for the 2016 academic year to continue. The extracts related to higher education follow below: 

"We are especially mindful of the need to expand access to post-school education opportunities. But this is not enough: our progress rests on improvements in the entire education system. Minister Nzimande has rightly emphasised that expanded opportunities in our universities cannot rely on government funding alone. Public expenditure on post-school education and training has in fact grown considerably faster than other budget allocations in recent years, and this will continue. At the heart of the issue is that access has expanded faster than resources. As a result, many students face financial hardships that undermine their ability to succeed academically. 

In addition to the R16 billion added to higher education funding in the February budget, we therefore propose: 

  • a further R9 billion for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme over the period ahead, raising its funding by over 18 per cent a year, and
  • over R8 billion to meet the costs of fee increases for students from households with incomes up to R600 000. 

We will work with the corporate sector and financial institutions to expand bursaries, loans and work opportunities for students. In seeking a balanced, sustainable roadmap for student finance, we appreciate that graduates who go on to earn higher incomes will in due course contribute a share of these gains to the next generation." 

The Minister also committed funding for 39 000 Funza Lushaka bursaries for prospective teachers.

#WitsPoll to take place on Thursday

- Wits University

Students and staff are strongly encouraged to participate in a poll regarding the resumption of the academic programme.

UPDATE FROM THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

Students and staff are strongly encouraged to participate in a poll that takes place tomorrow. This is an opportunity for you to have your voice heard regarding the resumption of the academic programme.

The #WitsPoll will take place as follows:

Date: Thursday, 29 September 2016

Time: 07:00 – 16:00

1. How will the poll take place?

 For students

Wits will send an SMS at 07:00 tomorrow to all students. Students should reply to the SMS replying YES or NO.

For staff

A link to a website will be circulated via email to staff members (excluding sessional, honorary, retired and visiting staff, external examiners and Emeritus Professors) with instructions of how to log in and respond. Line managers can share this link via WhatsApp or SMS with their staff. Staff should log in and respond.

2. Is it anonymous?

The poll is anonymous. 

3. Will the poll be audited?

The results will be verified by SizweNtsalubaGobodo, one of the top five auditing companies in the country as the IEC cannot assist with this process.

4. Can I vote more than once?

The systems will filter the results to ensure that only one vote per person is counted.

5. Do students have to pay for the SMS?

Students will not have to pay for the SMSs. However, students will be required to have at least 30 cents worth of airtime loaded on their cell phones for the SMS system to work.

6. What if I have an international cell phone number on the system?

Students with international cell phone numbers will also be accommodated.

7. What happens if the systems go down?

We have tested the IT systems and they are fully operational. If systems go down at any time, we have a team of technicians on standby to fix it.  

8. Is it a poll, a vote or a referendum? 

It is a poll to gauge the views of students and staff that will enable the University to make better decisions concerning the resumption of academic activities.

9. Can alumni and parents participate in the poll?

No. Alumni and parents can share their views via vco.news@wits.ac.za or on any of Wits’ social media channels.

10. What about other questions that students would like to be polled?

Only one question will be asked in the poll. There are multiple other platforms for engagement, and the sooner the University gets back to normal, the better we can engage.

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

28 SEPTEMBER 2016

Statement from the Senior Executive Team on 2016 fees

- Wits University

Clarification on the payment of fees due by end of March 2016.

There are many students who are seeking clarity on the payment of fees that are due on the 31st of March 2016, especially those who signed the initial fee waiver earlier this year.

Students who can pay

The University is encouraging all students who can afford to pay their outstanding fees to do so by the end of March, which is the date upon which all fees for the year are due.

Students who cannot afford to pay

Students who cannot afford to pay their fees by the 31st of March 2016 should sign an Acknowledgement of Debt (AOD) at the Fees Office and enter into a payment plan to prevent interest from being added to their account. If students adhere to the payment plan, no interest will be charged.

Students who sign the AOD:

 -        WILL NOT BE DEREGISTERED,

-        WILL NOT BE BARRED FROM CAMPUSES,

-        WILL NOT BE FINANCIALLY EXCLUDED,

-        WILL NOT HAVE THEIR CARDS DEACTIVATED, AND

-        WILL NOT HAVE INTEREST CHARGED TO THEIR ACCOUNT IF THEY ADHERE TO THE PAYMENT PLAN.

Students who do not sign the AOD, WILL NOT BE DEREGISTERED but interest may be charged to their accounts.

We believe that these arrangements will go a long way towards helping students to obtain the funds required to pay their student fees by the end of the year.

We are doing all that we can to assist students wherever possible through scholarships, bursaries, financial aid and fundraising. However, we also need to manage the University’s finances carefully in order to keep the University sustainable.

Please check your Wits student email account for regular updates. Please also check your fee statement on the student self-service portal.

Should you have any queries, please call (011) 717-1888 or email FeesOffice.Finance@wits.ac.za. Dedicated personnel will be available from tomorrow at the Fees Office to explain payment plan options and to assist you in signing the AOD.

Please visit the Fees Office well before the last day of March 2016, to avoid congestion.

Thank you 

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

10 MARCH 2016

 

Insourcing Task Team feedback

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team regarding insourcing:

The Insourcing Task Team (ITT) was established to carefully consider how best the University should insource services that are currently outsourced. 

Composition

The Task Team is made up of representatives from Council, workers, the Students’ Representative Council, students, staff and management, and is chaired by Advocate Dali Mpofu. 

Meetings

The Task Team has held regular meetings throughout December and January, and is making significant progress. 

Top up Payment

At its first meeting, the representatives of the workers requested the ITT to consider making a ‘top up’ payment to workers to address the low salaries that workers currently earn.

Following discussion, it was agreed:

  1. that a basic minimum salary be established and that no employee of a service provider working at Wits should earn below this level, and
  2. that it will be necessary to “top up” the earnings of workers who are currently outsourced. 

Minimum Salary

The ITT discussed the level of the minimum salary and agreed that an affordable, phased approach should be adopted. The Task Team discussed proposals of R4500 and R5000, and proposed that the minimum salary be set at R5000 per month. 

Decision of Exco of Council

  1. The Exco of Council considered the proposals and agreed that R5000 was not affordable to the University. Exco agreed that the minimum salary be set at R4500 on the following basis:
  2. Although the cost is not immediately affordable, Exco is committed to the concept of a minimum salary, and to finding solutions to enable the University to afford the cost at a minimum salary level of R4500, and will accordingly make representations to the full Council of the University,
  3. The matter will have to be considered and decided upon by a full sitting of Council,
  4. Agreement has to be reached with precision on which employees of service providers this arrangement will apply to,
  5. Agreement has to be reached with the current service providers on the implementation to ensure that it is passed through to employees, and that
  6. Trade unions need to agree to the implementation of this arrangement. 

Council Decision

The proposal of R4500 as a minimum gross salary was approved by Council on 14 January 2016. Council agreed, subject to the conditions above, that the University should pay an allowance to any worker of a service provider whose gross salary is below R4500. The allowance to be paid is the difference between the workers actual earnings, up to the amount of R4500. 

Next Steps

Wits has agreed to pay the allowance to outsourced workers who qualify, as from the 1st of January 2016. The University’s management is now working on the practical arrangements in this regard. 

The ITT has formed a number of sub-committees which are working on issues of demarcation and finance. 

The University community will be given regular updates on the progress made by the Task Team.

Fire in the Wartenweiler Library

- Wits University

About 100 books were damaged and a high-level investigation is underway by Wits Security and the police.

University activities

The academic programme continues today as per the academic calendar.

Burnt books at the Wartenweiler Library.Fire in the Wartenweiler Library

A fire was started in the last aisle on the second floor of the Wartenweiler Library yesterday afternoon. About 100 books were damaged. Security has determined that the fire was started with an accelerant or flammable substance, which may have been hidden in a bag found on the scene. The fire was extinguished quickly and a high-level investigation is underway by Wits Security and the police.

We apologise to all staff and students who were affected and evacuated yesterday.

Details of electronic poll for staff and students

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (17:00) on Thursday's poll:

Management reaches out to student leaders 

The Senior Executive Team has once again reached out to the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and invited them to a formal meeting to determine if we can find a way to engage on the current situation at the University. The SRC has not yet responded to this request. 

The University’s position is that we are broadly supportive of free education for the poor, although we understand that it is a national issue. The Vice-Chancellor and Principal and the executive management team are engaging with all stakeholders in an attempt to pursue viable options in this regard. 

Thursday’s poll 

The University will run an electronic poll on Thursday using text messages (SMSs) for students and via a website link for staff.

The poll will open at 07:00 and close at 16:00.

It will be anonymous and the data will feed straight into a database. The IEC has been requested to oversee the process to ensure that the results can be independently verified. 

We have determined that we have about 99% of students’ mobile numbers and we are working on obtaining the missing mobile numbers (we are missing less than 260  out of 37 000). We encourage all students to double check their details on the self-service as described below. 

How to add or amend a mobile number on Self Service ( https://self-service.wits.ac.za) 

  • Click on Personal Information
  • Click on Phone Numbers

If no Mobile phone type exists:

  • Click on Add a Phone Number
  • Click on the drop down arrow next to the Phone Type blank field
  • Select Mobile and type in the mobile phone number and Country code (027)
  • Click Save 

To amend the Mobile phone number

  • Amend the Mobile number accordingly and click Save. 
  • It would be appreciated if this information is updated by 15:00 on Wednesday, 28th September 2016. 

Have your voice heard 

We encourage all students and staff to participate in this anonymous poll, so that we can clearly understand the views of the wider Wits community.

Calm day on Wits campuses

- Wits University

Peaceful demonstration by students with disabilities and workers the only protest action today.

Academic programme

The academic programme went ahead today without disruption.

Incidents

No major incidents were reported today.

A group of about 30 students marched to the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court today, where four medical students who were arrested last week were released on bail. They are to appear in court again in November.

Students with disabilities and workers participated in peaceful demonstrations around lunch time. They handed over two memorandums to the Dean of Students, Dr. Puleng LenkaBula. The Senior Executive Team will meet to discuss the requests and will respond to the students and workers accordingly.

Response from the Senior Executive Team to education students

- Wits University

Wits management commits to working with student representatives to resolve funding issues.

The Senior Executive Team (SET) has deliberated on the issues raised by students from the Wits Education Campus and remains committed to working with student representatives in order to resolve these matters. 

Student funding

The University is committed to the principle of access to quality, free higher education for those who cannot afford it and is working with various structures within the University as well as with external stakeholders including the public and private sectors, the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and others to develop an alternative model to fund higher education.

  • About 20 700 of Wits’ 33 000 students received financial aid, scholarships or bursaries in 2015. Of the 20 700, approximately 3 820 were education students, representing 19% of the students who received funding.
  • In 2016, thus far approximately 8 888 students received funding of which 2 599 were education students, representing 29.2% of the total students who were allocated funding at Wits.
  • Approximately 499 students from the Wits School of Education require funding which amounts to about R40 million. About 235 students may qualify for NSFAS funding worth approximately R15 million, leaving a shortfall of R25 million.
  • Wits has written to the education departments of both Gauteng and Limpopo requesting support. We have not yet received favourable responses from these structures. The University will continue to follow up with officials.
  • The University has managed to raise approximately R500 000 from external donors to assist with undergraduate student fees this year. These funds have already been allocated. We have also managed to raise additional funds from a SETA for postgraduate students.

No student will be deregistered for not making the necessary tuition fee payments. However, we encourage students to enter into payment plans with the University in the interim so that interest does not accrue on their outstanding balances. We will also allow all Wits students to pay off their debt interest-free until the end of November 2016 provided that students do not default on their payment plans.

This does not have any bearing on academic exclusions or the University’s admission or readmission procedures which are in place to ensure that Wits’ quality education standards remain intact.

Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme

The Funza Lushaka scheme is a merit-based programme funded by the Department of Basic Education (DBE). In 2015, 51 000 applications were received for about 4 000 bursaries nationally.  The Funza Lushaka bursary programme is allocated on merit to students studying towards a Bachelors of Education (BEd) degree or a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). It is not a financial aid programme. The programme aims to address critical teacher shortages in specified subject areas and school phases.

Selection Process

A Funza Lushaka selection meeting was held at Wits on 22 March 2016. The selection committee consisted of officials from the DBE, the provincial department of education and Wits representatives. The selection of bursary holders was undertaken in accordance with the criteria contained in an approved policy. The results of the Funza Lushaka selection process have not yet been officially released although we are aware that some preliminary lists were posted on the campus. The Funza Lushaka coordinator at Wits will inform students of the outcome of the selections once this process is completed. It is envisaged that students will be informed of the outcome before the end of April 2016.

A Funza Lushaka representative from the DBE is in attendance today to answer any key questions around the programme.

Accommodation

The issue of accommodation is a national challenge and remains a difficult matter for an urban university like Wits. We have tried to accommodate more students over the years through developments like the Wits Junction and Noswal Hall, but building residences is expensive and is not easily funded. We have 6 600 beds which accommodate about 19% of the student population. Education students occupy about 19% of the available beds, which is broadly in line with their proportion to the student body.

The University will not evict education students staying in residences who are still awaiting the outcome of their bursary status.

The Student Affairs Office has had a presence on the Education Campus last week. All needy students who require emergency, temporary accommodation are requested to speak directly to the Dean of Students who will consider submissions on a case by case basis.

Standard marking

All academics at Wits subscribe to the Senate Standing Orders on Assessment. The Dean of the Faculty of Humanities will work with the Head of the School of Education to ensure that academics in the School adhere to all University policies and procedures. This will be undertaken by the end of May 2016 and any particular complaints made in this regard should be raised with the Dean of the Faculty directly.   

Financial aid and student support services

The establishment of satellite financial aid and student support offices in Parktown will be a significant additional cost to the University in a year in which budgets are severely constrained. However, we commit to launching such facilities in Parktown by 31 October 2016.

Low-cost food options

The University is investigating cheaper food options for students on the Parktown campuses. We will commence with a survey of the type of food that students favour and the price range that they can afford. Depending on the outcome of the survey, additional service providers could start operating on the campus as from 1 August 2016.  

Budget meals are available at the Highfield Dining Halls from 09:00 to 10:30 and from 15:00 to 16:00 on weekdays. Prices are R22 and R24 respectively. Details are available from the Catering Liaison Officer at the dining halls.

We have also requested Theo’s to offer low cost options including a hot meal at a favourable price. Student Affairs will also be providing a warm meal for lunch for students who are financially constrained. This will roll out from the 3rd of May 2016.

Safety and security

The recent disruptions and unlawful activities have left Wits with no choice but to once again redirect resources away from where they are needed most – accommodation, food and support for needy students. We can only remove security once we can guarantee that University activities will continue without disruption and when we can ensure the safety and security of staff and students.

The SET assesses situations daily and will determine what level of security is required. The University allows for lawful protest, provided that it does not infringe on the rights of others to learn and work. If there is a breach of the University’s policies and procedures, if University activities are disrupted or if the court interdict is in any way violated, the University will act as appropriate against those individuals.

Student governance

The University has a governance structure in place and the Education Students Council is thus required to work within this framework, through the Students’ Representative Council and the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, as required.

Engagement  

The SET remains committed to working through the details of these matters via the Office of the Dean of Students.

Thank you

Senior Executive Team

18 April 2016

Court order now final

- Wits University

The South Gauteng High has made court interdict final on 25 April 2016.

View a copy of the Final Court Order on 25 April 2016.

Update: Protest and criminal acts [14:30]

- Wits University

Statement from the Senior Executive Team: University activities continue.

Several classes were disrupted this morning and a fire was started in the Umthombo Building just over an hour ago. The fire in the empty lecture hall has since been extinguished and we are working on restoring electricity to the building. These are criminal acts and the University will deal with this matter decisively using all means at its disposal. 

The University has asked the police to intervene and to arrest these individuals who are in direct contravention of the court order. Additional security has been brought onto campus and all entrances and exit points have been secured. The additional security will remain in place until further notice. 

The activities of the University continue until further notice. Please direct all queries to your respective Dean or Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Update: No student is deregistered for not paying fees [15:30]

- Wits University

Statement from Senior Executive Team: Police asked to intervene and arrest individual for criminal acts.

The Wits Senior Executive Team condemns the behaviour of the approximately 150 individuals who disrupted lectures and started a fire on the Braamfontein campus today, some of whom are neither Wits staff members, nor students.

The University has instructed the police to intervene and to arrest the individuals for their criminal behaviour and for contravening a court order that was granted earlier this year. These are criminal acts and the University will deal with this matter decisively using all means at its disposal.

Suspension orders have been issued to members of the group who are Wits staff members or students and barring orders have been put in place for all non-Wits members. 

We have strengthened security and secured all lecture venues and entrance and exit points. All activities of the University continue as usual. 

We believe that today’s protest is a politically orchestrated campaign with larger national objectives. The individuals who addressed the student groups today were from Wits, other universities in Gauteng, the Western and Eastern Cape and some political parties. They are calling for free education now. 

The Wits SRC is not involved in the protest. 

Student fees 

The University has proactively established systems to ensure that NO STUDENT IS DEREGISTERED FOR NOT PAYING FEES provided that they enter into a payment plan with the University. 

We will keep students, staff, the media and the public updated on developments via email, www.wits.ac.za and @WitsUniversity and www.facebook.com/witsuniversity  

Students and staff should report any incidents to Campus Control in person or via telephone at (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666.

Wits condemns disruptive and illegal behaviour [19:30]

- Wits University

Tuesday classes continue as normal after politically orchestrated protests disrupted campus activities.

Dear Colleagues and Students

Update on activities on Monday, 4 April 2016

The Wits Senior Executive Team condemns in the strongest form the behaviour of the approximately 150 individuals who disrupted lectures and started a fire in an empty lecture theatre on the Braamfontein campus today. Due to the quick reaction of Campus Control, the fire was quickly extinguished and electricity was restored to the building. 

We believe that today’s protest is a politically orchestrated campaign with larger national objectives. The individuals who addressed the student groups today were from Wits, other universities in Gauteng, the Western and Eastern Cape and some political parties. The individuals were calling for free education for all now. 

Wits taking action

The University has requested the police to intervene and to arrest the individuals for their criminal behaviour and for contravening a court order that was granted earlier this year. These are criminal acts and the University will deal with this matter decisively using all means at its disposal. Suspension orders are being issued to individuals who are Wits staff or students and barring orders have been put in place for all non-Wits members who engaged in illegal activities.

University activities continue as usual on Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Wits has strengthened security and secured all major lecture venues and access points. All activities of the University continue as usual.

Communication

We will keep students, staff, parents, the media and the public updated via email, www.wits.ac.za and social media @WitsUniversity and www.facebook.com/witsuniversity

Students and staff should report any incidents to Campus Control in person or via telephone at (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666.

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

4 APRIL 2016

Update: Student in court and concerned black staff protest

- Wits University

Academic programme goes ahead with no reports of disruptions.

Dear Students and Colleagues

ACADEMIC PROGRAMME

We have had no reports of disruptions to the academic programme. All University activities go ahead tomorrow.

STUDENT IN COURT

A student arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court today. His application for bail has been postponed until tomorrow.

CONCERNED BLACK STAFF PROTEST

Concerned Black Staff for Free, Quality, Decolonised Education held a silent protest outside the Wits Great Hall today. They were joined by groups of students and workers and indicated that they would hand over a memorandum to management.

COMPUTER LABS THAT CAN BE ACCESSED AFTER 10PM – CHANGE TO VENUE

Following the requests of many students to continue using learning venues and computer labs after 10pm, the University has agreed to keep the following venues open and available to students. Students will have to be in these venues before 10pm and on completion of their use of the facilities, will be escorted back to their residences by Campus Control, who will be stationed at the door of these facilities.

The venues are:

Braamfontein Campus East

CNS PG Lab – SH1029, 1st Floor, West Wing, Senate House

CNS UG Lab – SH1101, 1st Floor, West Wing, Senate House

Braamfontein Campus West

CNS UG Lab – FNB 2B, Ground Floor, FNB Building    

D Lab – Ground Floor, Chamber of Mines Building

Wits Education Campus

CNS UG Lab- GLASS LAB01, Marang Block, Ground Floor

Wits Health Sciences Campus

CNS UG Lab – MS-01A, 3rd Floor, Medical School

Wits Management Campus

Computer laboratories open for postgraduate students as normal.

EAST-WEST TUNNEL

We apologise to all those affected by the West Campus Tunnel closure. This is an interim security measure. We will reopen it as soon as the situation fully stabilises.

ENGAGEMENT

We remain open to engagement and negotiation with student leaders as we believe that the issues that they have raised can only be resolved through negotiated outcomes. Our primary focus is on the completion of the academic programme in the next week.

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

18 OCTOBER 2016 (17:00)

Disruptions at dining hall and Matrix

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement: Security has been reinforced on campus and police are on standby.

There was an attempt yesterday by a group of about 50 – 80 workers to disrupt dining hall operations and operations in the Matrix as examinations begin on campus. The intimidation of some dining hall and other staff members has also been reported.

The University has thus reinforced security across all campuses and has put the police on standby to ensure that all university operations, and particularly examinations, are not disrupted.

Examinations will not be cancelled or postponed under any circumstances and the University will use the interdict that it has in place to ensure that its activities are not disrupted in any way.  

As far as can be established, the group of workers are unhappy about some of the agreements reached pertaining to the overall recommendations made by the Insourcing Task Team (ITT) which was established last year.

The group seems to be unhappy about the categories of staff recommended to be insourced, with the workers of retail establishments, particularly those in the Matrix now demanding that they should be insourced.

The ITT is due to meet again this evening and will put forward its final recommendations to the Council of the University at its 10 June meeting. Workers will also receive feedback on the report of the ITT. However it must be emphasised, as has been agreed by the ITT, that only Council can finalise any insourcing arrangements.  

The ITT was established last year following a request from workers for such a body to be established. It comprises of representatives of the workers, students, Students’ Representative Council, academics, management and Council. It is chaired by Advocate Dali Mpofu.

The attempt by the small group of workers to compromise our examinations and dining hall activities is unacceptable. We will not tolerate any intimidation, disruption or violence.

These are direct violations of the interdict that the University obtained to protect the rights of students and staff to learn and work in a conducive environment. Any person found to be violating the court order will face the full might of the law and will be barred from our campuses.

We urge all staff, students and workers to engage in a respectable manner without violating the rights of others.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure our safety and security and we request staff, students, workers and visitors to report any incidents as soon as possible to Campus Control. It will be helpful to give as much detail as possible, including photographs or video material to supplement CCTV footage and statements, where possible.

Wits remains open on Tuesday

- Wits University

Update from Senior Executive Team (18:00):

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.

Attempted interdict against examinations dismissed

- Wits University

Exams to go ahead as scheduled with the University's normal rules around exams and accommodation in place.

INTERDICT

A group of students brought an urgent application to the South Gauteng High Court on Tuesday to interdict examinations at Wits University. They did not persist with this part of the application. This means that examinations go ahead at Wits University as planned.

A new application was made for the University to accommodate students in residence from now until the date of their deferred examinations. This application was dismissed by the court.

This means that:

  1. Examinations will go ahead as scheduled.
  2. The University’s normal rules around accommodation and deferred examinations apply.

Download the interdict (pdf).

Condolences from Wits University

- Wits University

It was with great sadness that the University learnt about the passing of Mr Celumusa Ntuli.

Mr Ntuli was a cleaner on the Wits Braamfontein campus and passed away last week. 

Mr Ntuli (39), from Soweto, was cleaning the Jubilee Hall of Residence last Tuesday, when protestors entered and released fire extinguishers. He fell ill shortly thereafter and was attended to by a nurse from the Wits Campus Health and Wellness Centre. She advised that Mr Ntuli should be rushed to hospital without delay. Mr Ntuli was taken to Milpark Hospital where he was treated for three days and discharged. He went home but then developed complications. His family tried to get him back to the hospital but he passed away while being transported. 

The cause of death is still to be determined. The University’s Campus Control, together with Mr Ntuli’s employer, are conducting investigations into the incident. 

The University commiserates with Mr Ntuli’s family, friends, colleagues and loved ones during this difficult period. May he rest in peace.

Academic programme continues on Friday

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Management Team (18:00):

University activities 

Despite some of the disruptions earlier today, the majority of classes went ahead across all campuses and class attendance has improved. Classes resume tomorrow as per the academic calendar. 

Management’s engagement with students 

The mediators informed Wits management just before 17:00 that the student leaders would not attending the meeting scheduled for today. We apologise to all those who were preparing to watch it via live streaming or on the Concourse. 

The Senior Executive Team of Wits University remains completely committed to engaging with student leaders. 

Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib remains open to engaging with student leaders.

Audio clip 

The University is aware that a new voice clip threatening violence at the University and intimidating students is circulating on social media. This clip, together with two others from last week, have been passed on to Wits Security, the Wits Legal Office and the South African Police Services for investigation. 

Anyone with information about the source of the voice clip should call the Head of Wits Security, Mr Mokgawa Kobe on 0117171853.

Wits fee increase for 2017

- Wits University

Statement from the Senior Executive Team:

The Council of the University of the Witwatersrand has confirmed that the University will be increasing fees for the 2017 academic year by an average of 8% for tuition and residence fees. An 8% increase is also applicable for international student fees. The only exception is for postgraduate programmes run in the Wits School of Governance, where tuition fees will increase by 9.5%. These increases are in line with the recommendations made by the state in September this year.

Sustainability

The University has no choice but to increase fees if it is to remain financially sustainable as academics and professional and administrative staff need to be remunerated, books and journals need to be purchased (many in foreign currency), utilities need to be paid and infrastructure needs to be maintained. In addition, the University will accommodate the costs of insourcing and the new ICT renewal project from 2017.

The table below reflects the various scenarios that the University could face if fees are increased at different levels.

Increase

Forecast deficit for 2017

8%

R 56.5 million

6%

R 90 million

0%

R 191 million

It must also be noted that the state compensation for the 0% increase for the 2016 academic year amounted to approximately R146 million. However, we have been recently informed that the 2016 fee increase will now be rolled into the subsidy, the net effect of which is that our subsidy increase for 2017 will be only 2.5%. This equates to a net decline in income of approximately R54 million for 2017 from the state.

Student input

The decision on the 2017 fee increase was recommended by management and the Financial Committee (FinCo) of the University and approved by Council after consultation with the elected Students’ Representative Council (SRC). The SRC is represented on FinCo and Council and had requested a 0% increase in tuition fees for 2017. Their input was considered and deliberated extensively before the final decision was made.

Funding of students

Council is aware that this decision will be financially onerous for the families of many students. Note that the state has committed to funding the increase for all students with a family income of less than R600 000. Wits will, however, do all that it can to seek bursaries and scholarships for as many students as is possible.

The University administered approximately R1 billion in financial aid, scholarships or bursaries in 2016, assisting approximately 22 000 students (out of 37 000 students). We will again endeavour to mobilise resources from the state, the corporate sector and our own funds to assist as many students as is possible in 2017.

Wits’ pledge to free education

The University remains committed to working towards achieving access to quality, free higher education as per the draft pledge that it was willing to adopt in October 2016. This goal however can only be realised at a systemic level when the financing of higher education is completely reorganised.

All University activities go ahead today

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (06:30):

There were several incidents that took place on the Braamfontein campuses last night. A group of protesting students tried to start at least four fires in different places on the campuses. These fires were quickly extinguished. 

Protestors threw stones that damaged buildings. They smashed several windows. Some buildings were flooded as students left taps open. 

The police and security managed the situation and two students were arrested. 

Cleaning is underway across the campuses at the moment and classes go ahead today.

Classes on track at Wits

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (10:00):

Thank you to everyone who has reported for class this morning. The University is committed to completing the 2016 academic year and to ensuring that all students write examinations. 

Daily Update 

Classes resumed this morning and as at 10:00 all academic activities are on track. A group of students tried to close the entrance to the Wits Management Campus today and they dispersed when security and the police intervened. The police have followed them and are currently managing the situation. One student has been arrested. 

A group of about six students tried to disrupt a lecture on the Wits Education Campus but security stepped in and they ran away. We are doing our level best to ensure that lectures continue without disruption today. We also request staff and students to stay away from areas of conflict for their own safety.

Counselling services available 

We are very concerned about the level of trauma and stress experienced by students and staff given the incidents that have occurred in recent days. The Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) is providing counselling support for students and staff who may need trauma debriefing or counselling. They are welcome to visit the CCDU on West Campus or Education Campus for individual or group counselling or debriefing. Staff can call 011 717 9140/32 or 072 486 9780 and a counsellor will call you back. Visit the CCDU webpage that focuses on trauma and related important information. Read more at www.wits.ac.za/ccdu and scroll down the page. 

Engagement 

We reiterate that we have met with student leaders from official University structures privately. 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, 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, that it allows for a two-way conversation and is planned in advance.  We have written to the Students’ Representative Council. 

We are happy to address all internal issues as described earlier but it is beyond our control to give students free education now. 

Wits’ Pledge 

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.

Nighttime restriction of movement on campus relaxed

- Wits University

No major incidents reported over the weekend.

Academic Programme

We enter the last week of the academic programme this week and all classes resume as per the academic calendar.

Incidents

There were no major incidents reported over the weekend.

Relaxation on movement on campuses at night

Given that there were no major incidents over the weekend and the assurances that we have received from student leaders and residence staff, we are progressively relaxing the restrictions on the movement of students as the situation improves at night.

As from today, Monday, 24 October 2016, students need to remain within their residences or areas of study from 1am – 5am. Should you wish to leave a learning venue during this period, you will be escorted back to your residences by Campus Control, who will be stationed outside these centres. These are temporary measures that are being progressively lifted as the situation stabilises.

Students programme of action today

We are aware that students and workers have planned several marches today, including a march involving students with disabilities. We respect the rights of those who choose to protest provided that it does not impinge on the rights of those who want to work and learn. Please remember to report all incidents to Campus Control on (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666.

Senior executive statement on food and accommodation.

- Wits University

The Office of the Dean of Students, together with internal stakeholders, is proactively addressing students' food and accommodation needs.

The following measures have been put in place to assist hundreds of students who require food and accommodation:

Fast-tracking the NSFAS appeals process

The Financial Aid and Scholarships office (FASO) has extended the deadline for all students to submit their appeals and all documentation (certified) by 18 February 2016. The FASO is doing all that it can to ensure that the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) appeals process is fast-tracked. A special Committee has been appointed to review all documentation without delay. The Committee is reviewing all appeals and is prioritising those whose documents are in order and those who need or require accommodation. The appeals process will be complete by 28 February 2016 at the latest.

NSFAS students in residence

The FASO is fast tracking appeals of those who need access to residence. While a NSFAS decision is pending, students who received a residence offer for 2016 and who met NSFAS criteria in 2015 are being referred to their residence cluster managers and arrangements are in place to accommodate these students.

NSFAS students in private accommodation

For those students who are awaiting NSFAS appeals and who reside in private accommodation, an arrangement has been made with a private accommodation service provider to house them until 28 February 2016.

Registered students who have no funding for accommodation

These students have been placed in temporary emergency accommodation at a private service provider as arranged by the office of the Dean of Students.

Food security

Students who are in need of food have been referred to the Wits Food Bank to access food packs and fresh vegetables from the West Campus Inyala Garden Project.

 

Wits to poll staff and students

- Wits University

Update on academic activities from the Senior Executive Team (15:00):

The University believes that the voices of the majority of students and staff need to be heard. The University has received hundreds of emails calling for the academic programme to resume and has responded to these concerns. 

In order to facilitate as wide a response as possible to the current crisis, the University will run a poll later this week to gauge the thoughts of staff and students on the resumption of the academic programme on Monday, the 3rd of October 2016, if the appropriate security measures are in place. 

All responses will remain anonymous. We are requesting the Independent Electoral Commission to oversee this process and to verify the results independently. 

If the majority of students and staff support the reopening on Monday, 3 October 2016, the University will call upon government and the police to meet their obligations to protect the University’s property and to safeguard the lives of students and staff. 

The University is also extremely concerned about the unfolding and growing crisis in the higher education sector and is calling for an urgent meeting between vice-chancellors, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Police in order to engage further on this matter. 

All University activities remain suspended until further notice. Senior management will continue to reach out to students in an attempt to engage on these critical issues. 

Wits’ stability is important in the context of the broader higher education system. We cannot lose the academic year and we appeal to the University community and wider society to make your voices heard on this key issue of national importance that impacts on our collective futures. 

Staff, students and the public can share their views via vco.news@wits.ac.za anonymously. 

Details of the poll will be announced later this week.

Update on incidents and restrictions on campus

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team update on incidents on Wits campus.

Dear Colleagues and Students

Academic programme

The academic programme continues today, Monday, 17 October 2016.

Incidents

Several fires were started in dustbins across the Braamfontein campuses on Friday evening and were extinguished by Campus Control. Several buildings were stoned and windows were smashed at the Matrix Building. Several roads were barricaded both on and off campus and they were cleared.

A security guard was assaulted outside the Men's Residence and his vehicle’s windows were broken. On two occasions, stun grenades and rubber bullets were used to disperse students.

This morning, students started two fires on public roads and at an intersection and a bus stop in Parktown. The police have controlled the situation and traffic is now flowing freely. We have reports of students trying to blockade the entrances to residences and in three cases tried to lock students into residences. All these issues have been resolved.

The University was alerted last night that a student who allegedly went missing yesterday. He was apparently located in the early hours of this morning. This matter is being investigated by Campus Control. The Office of the Dean of Students is working on bringing the student back to campus today.

Evening restrictions on campus

There have been multiple legitimate requests from students who need to access University facilities for study purposes after 10pm. The University will publish a list of learning areas and computer laboratories later today which will remain open after 10pm. Students will have to be in these venues before 10pm and will be escorted back to their residences by Campus Control thereafter. For all other areas, the restrictions will remain in place from 10pm until 6am.

All other special requests for students to be out of residences and walking on campus after 10pm must be channeled via the Registrar, Ms Carol Crosley via Carol.Crosley@wits.ac.za

All emergencies should be reported to (011) 717-4444.

Arrests

Three students will appear in court today. Two were arrested in Braamfontein on Friday night, while the third student was arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning. The student’s case has been postponed until tomorrow and he is to remain in custody.   

Police entering residences

Please note that police are not allowed to enter residences unless it is to apprehend individuals involved in criminal activity. Going forward, all police officers are to be accompanied by campus control officials when entering any residence. All video footage is being regularly watched to monitor incidents in residences. Anyone who has any complaints about the excessive use of force by private security or Campus Control or the should report it to Mokgawa.Kobe@wits.ac.za or in the case of the police to the Independent Police Investigations Department (IPID).

Please report all incidents of violence and/or injuries to Campus Control as well. All emergencies should be reported via (011) 717-4444 – it is manned 24 hours.

Misinformation

There is much misinformation spreading on social media and we ask students and staff to be circumspect about information that is circulated without evidence. Please follow @Wits_News and @WitsUniveristy and www.facebook.com/witsuniversity or visit www.wits.ac.za for updates from Wits.   

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

17 OCTOBER 2016 (12:00)

Absa bank donates R10 million towards supporting Wits' “missing middle”

- Wits University

The University will allocate the funds towards supporting a minimum of 250 students.

Absa Bank made a R10 million donation to the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), to support the so-called “missing middle” undergraduate students who face financial obstacles and challenges.

Absa Bank’s Dr Theunie Lategan and Mr Steven Seaka hand over a letter confirming Absa’s R10 million donation to Wits’ Professor Adam Habib and Dr Randall Carolissen.Absa Bank’s Dr Theunie Lategan, non-executive Deputy Chairman, Barclays Africa Corporate and Investment Banking division and Steven Seaka, Head of Public Sector, Absa Group-SA, handed over a letter confirming the bank’s commitment towards the funds to Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Adam Habib and Council Chairman Dr Randall Carolissen on Friday afternoon.

Maria Ramos, CEO of Absa, says: “As part of our commitment to building a more equitable and prosperous Africa for the next generation, we earlier this year launched our Shared Growth Strategy. One of its pillars is Education and Skills Development, for which we have put aside funding to support young talented people”.

The University will allocate the funds towards supporting a minimum of 250 students. The funding is in addition to the annual R2 million, 10-year sponsorship of 20 Wits University bursary students who are contracted to join the employ of Absa on completion of their studies.

“We feel a responsibility to make a contribution while long-term solutions to higher education funding are being developed. We trust that this contribution will assist Wits University to make quality education more accessible to the youth of South Africa,” says Ramos.

Habib says Wits University is particularly appreciative of the additional contribution from Absa.

“This will go a long way in assisting poor, talented students at Wits University to complete their programme,” says Habib. “Wits University and many of the other universities offer quality degrees that are well recognized in the world, and we produce world-class professionals, and if we are going to keep our universities functional and retain the quality, then we need to ensure that we get all the stakeholders participating in the university system and the private sector is one such participant.”

Habib adds that the private sector plays a pivotal role in the ongoing success of universities in South Africa.

“There are three very distinctive partnerships that can emerge between universities and the private sector. The first is as a donor to support scholarship, the second is as partners where they support research by establishing research Chairs and having corporate research arms established at universities, and third, and very importantly, working with us in rethinking our curriculum. Clearly, what is required of the professional in 2016 is profoundly different to what was required in 2000. We need to constantly innovate in our curriculum, and having private sector engagement in our curriculum committees is absolutely important in facilitating a curriculum that speaks to the realities of the economy, of the corporates and to the skillsets that our students require”.

Wits extends sympathies to worker's next of kin

- Wits University

The University has received a report that an employee of one of our service providers who worked in a residence passed away last week.

Last Tuesday, students released a fire extinguisher in the Jubilee Hall of Residence, which affected a cleaner in the building.

The worker was rushed to the Campus Health and Wellness Centre and then taken to hospital where the worker was treated for a few days. The worker was discharged from hospital and then passed away.

The cause of death is still to be determined. The University is awaiting a report from the service provider before commenting further.

Our deepest sympathies are extended to the family, friends and colleagues of the worker.

Management and SRC agreement

- Wits University

Wits University Management and the Wits Students’ Representative Council have reached agreement on a range of issues that are summarised here:

1. Free education: The University and the SRC commit to the realisation of free education as the ultimate goal for all students who qualify academically and who cannot afford it.

2. First payment: Students who cannot afford the first fee payment prior to enrolment/registration will still be allowed to register by filling in a form via the self-service portal (https://self-service.wits.ac.za).

a. There will be no interest on the first fee payment for those who have indicated that they cannot afford the first payment.
b. The University will provide the SRC with data on the number of students who have filled in the first payment form.
c. No student will be financially excluded during the academic year because they are unable to make their first payment.

3. Insourcing Task Team: The University agreed to more frequent reporting from the Insourcing Task Team. The next communique from the Insourcing Task Team will include information on the progress on the minimum wage demand. The University agreed that it was of utmost urgency for Council to make a decision between the proposed R4 500 and R5 000.

4. Funding for workers’ children: Workers’ children who have qualified for admission to the University and to residence will receive a full package, including tuition and accommodation.

5. General Assembly: The University commits to initiating, during the first block and upon the return of all students, the processes necessary for holding a General Assembly.

6. Safety and security: In securing and providing safety and security to the University community, police should not use undue force that violates any human rights. The University and students need to find a non-violent and amicable way of resolving issues.

7. Progression status: The University agrees that students will be able to know their progression status, regardless of whether they have outstanding debt. The University also agrees to advance students being able to view their progress report/unofficial transcript throughout the year, regardless of whether they have outstanding debt.

8. Food security: Student Affairs commits to working with the SRC on addressing the issue of food insecurity on campus. There is currently a University project to address food insecurity of which the SRC is a part.

9. NSFAS appeals: Outcomes of NSFAS appeals will be given immediately after each meeting of the appeals committee.

10. FASO: The University reaffirms the commitment that there should be accountability, efficiency and consistency within the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office (FASO). FASO is already undergoing a review process.

11. English: The University agrees to engage on the matter of students with good APS scores and exceptional marks being allowed to appeal.

12. Communication with prospective students: The University commits to communicating with prospective students who may have had difficulties with registering during the two days of registration shut-down.

13. Debt management: The University commits to providing the SRC with data to substantiate the need for state intervention on debt clearance for the missing middle.

a. All students who owe the University between R1 and R1 000 as at 31 December 2015 will be allowed to register in 2016. The outstanding debt for 2015 will be rolled over to 2016. The University estimates that this concession will benefit 3 607 students this year.
b. All students who can show that they are fully funded for 2016 will be allowed to register. They will have to sign an acknowledgement of debt for fees owed in 2015.
c. The University will work with the SRC to raise funds to clear the debt of approximately 1 284 students who owe the University between R1 001 and R5 000 (as at 31 December 2015). If this effort is successful, these students will then be allowed to register in 2016.
d. The SRC and the University will approach the provincial government to cover the debt of about 1 418 students who owe the University between R5 001 and R20 000 (as at 31 December 2015). If these efforts are successful, these students will be allowed to register for the 2016 academic year.

14. Residence fees and Food Security: Residence fees have not been increased, in line with the agreement on the zero percent fee increases. However, meal costs have increased.

The University will require about 24 hours to adjust its administrative processes to accommodate this agreement and we ask all students to be patient during this period.

Please bring any concerns or issues to the attention of the Registrar via registar@wits.ac.za so that they can be addressed timeously.

We trust that these arrangements will go a long way towards enabling the majority of our students to register for 2016 without hindrance.

We thank all staff members and students for your patience during this difficult period.

Senior Executive Team

19 January 2016

Response to letters and calls from concerned Wits community

- Wits University

Here follows the response from the Senior Executive Team to messages from concerned students, parents and staff:

We have been inundated with responses from staff, students and parents (read a selection of the messages) following the release of a statement indicating that Wits University will be closed until further notice. The academic programme can only continue once we can re-establish a safe and secure learning environment. 

Let us first address the issue of violence, which has been a common concern through all the responses. Let us be clear – Wits’ executive management has always denounced violence, and all our recent communication has done the same. We condemn any form of violence and encourage all parties to engage constructively to find a long-term solution to these issues. 

Many have accused us of not anticipating the protests and not having contingency plans in place. In fact, we have been two steps ahead the whole of this year, and despite multiple attempts to close us down, we did not lose a single day. Even this protest was anticipated and, unlike many other universities, we resisted closing down. We remained open for the entire day on Monday, largely because of the deployment of private security. 

However, on Monday our security began to fracture. This is for two reasons: the police were not arresting the students, and when they did, they released them, which made things difficult. Secondly, the quality of the private security began to decline partly because all universities required them, and less trained security personnel began to be deployed. This then culminated in a situation where private security, after being provoked by students who stoned them, lost their discipline and started throwing stones as well. 

The throwing of stones by anyone is unacceptable and we are further investigating this incident. Following this incident, and confronted with the prospect of serious injuries, we suspended the University programme. 

Nowhere in the world does a university, when confronted with such challenges, have to address the problem on its own. In most societies, appropriately trained police will address the situation in a non-violent way. We cannot rely on the response of the police in our country and this is the primary problem. 

This matter cannot be resolved by vice-chancellors and higher education executives alone. We need the voices of ordinary citizens and students to be heard because when good people remain silent, the extreme political minority get carte blanche to determine the future of our institutions and society. 

We are extremely concerned about the willingness of some students and academics to sacrifice Wits and the future of our students for a political fight that is truly meant to be directed elsewhere. 

We would like to hear from all our staff, students, parents and members of the public. More importantly, we encourage you to make your voices heard publicly. Only collectively can we save Wits and the higher education system in a South Africa.

Update: New security systems in place

- Wits University

Statement from the Senior Executive Team on measures to curb unlawful activities.

On Monday, a group of about 150 individuals, some of whom were Wits students and workers, disrupted some lectures, intimidated and harassed staff and students, and started a fire in an empty lecture theatre. Fortunately, the fire was extinguished quickly and no one was injured. We acted as quickly as we could to stabilise the situation and all academic activities resumed on Tuesday with no further incident.

Management condemns the behaviour of this group in the strongest possible terms. These unlawful activities are appalling and a violation of everything for which the University stands. In addition, there was a deliberate manipulation of facts by this group of individuals to garner support from unwary individuals. This was an abuse of the University and its protocols by a narrow group of people who orchestrated a campaign to advance their own political agendas. This abuse of Wits University will not be tolerated.

The University reiterates that no student will be deregistered if they have not made payment by 31 March 2016.

The Senior Executive Team apologises to all students, staff members, parents and visitors who were affected by the incidents that occurred on Monday. We are aware that some women and vulnerable groups in particular were deliberately targeted. We urge you to report all incidents of gender violence to the Gender Equity Office and all other incidents to Campus Control.

New systems in place

In the interests of the safety and security of the larger Wits community, and to protect our property, the University has implemented the following measures with immediate effect:

  1. All access control points have been bolstered. Staff and students now need to produce their access cards to gain entry to our campuses. Anyone found aiding or abetting suspended students or allowing anyone else onto campus by swiping their access cards will be held accountable.
  2. Visitors are required to report to security before coming on to campus.
  1. Additional private security members have been brought onto our campuses and have been deployed at key points outside major lecture halls, residences and test venues.
  2. There were regrettable delays in the police’s response, despite the fact that we have repeatedly engaged them in this regard. We are now independently establishing a rapid response unit that will enable roving security capacity on and between campuses at Wits and our sister institutions.
  1. The South African Police Services stationed on the parameter of our campuses and will be called on if required.
  2. An extensive review of campus security is also underway.

We are aware that some staff members and students may not be comfortable with these security arrangements. Unfortunately, we are left with no choice today but to bring in private security as we have not been afforded any viable alternatives from critics in this regard.

Suspension and barring orders

The University has suspended five students who have been identified as instigators and/or participants in illegal activities on campus on Monday and who have contravened the court order that the University obtained earlier this year. We are assessing all the evidence that we have gathered and we will act against anyone else who has been identified as having engaged in unlawful activities.

There was a demand that individuals who were suspended be allowed back onto our campuses. We want to make clear that they were suspended for alleged criminal activity, including attempted arson. The University will not consider allowing such individuals back onto our campuses. Those who are asking us to do so are showing a lack of commitment to the collective safety and security of all.

All external individuals who were involved in illegal activities on Monday are barred from our campuses. Their photos have been placed at all access points and security has been instructed not to allow them onto our campuses. Official complaints have been laid with their respective universities, requesting that disciplinary action be taken against them.

A case of arson has been opened at the Hillbrow Police Station and police are investigating this matter. The University is also reviewing all CCTV footage in order to try to identify the perpetrators who started the fire as well as those who were involved in unlawful activities, in violation of the University’s rules and regulations, so that we can hold them accountable for their actions.

We are aware that some students, staff, workers, including bus drivers and others were misled and misinformed by some instigators on Monday. We urge all members of the Wits community not to deliberately spread false information and to act responsibly at all times.

Conclusion

We reiterate that all students, staff, workers and others will be held accountable for their actions. We are aware that certain groups in the University community may not be comfortable with the new arrangements, but we cannot allow the safety and security of Wits to be compromised.

As a community, we can no longer speak with ambiguity. We must all condemn violence and be willing to hold accountable those who engage in violence.

Our individual safety and security is tied to our collective safety and security. It is important that if one of us is seen to be under attack, then all of us must be seen to be under attack. If we fail to do so, then the words of Martin Niemöller’s First they came… will ring true.

We thank you for your patience and support during these trying times.

Please do not hesitate to share your views with us via vco.news@wits.ac.za.

Naming committee recommends Senate House be renamed Solomon Mahlangu House

- Wits Univesity

Notice from Professor Tawana Kupe, Chairperson of the Naming Committee:

A special meeting of the University's Naming Committee was held today after a call for proposals was issued for the renaming of the University's places and spaces.

This is a key component of the University's Transformation Plan that is being implemented. The Committee considered a number of proposals for the renaming of buildings and spaces at Wits. We will keep you updated on further developments in this regard.

A number of submissions to rename Senate House was reviewed and the Naming Committee unanimously agreed that Senate House should be renamed Solomon Mahlangu House.

This recommendation will be put forward to the relevant governance structures for consideration and ratification as appropriate.

#WitsPoll: Majority of students support going back to class on Monday

- Wits University

The University is still waiting for auditors to verify the staff poll and will make results available as they come through.

The University of the Witwatersrand conducted a poll on Thursday, 29 September 2016 to canvass the views of students and staff. They were asked if they wanted the academic programme to proceed on Monday, 3 October 2016, if there was appropriate security in place. 

The interim results of the poll indicate that the significant majority of students want the academic programme to resume on Monday. 

The interim results of the student poll are detailed below: 

Total responses: 21 730

Total “Yes”: 16 739 (77%)

Total “No”: 4 991 (23%)

One of the leading firms in the country, SizweNtsalubaGobodo audited the poll and provided the interim results.

Staff

The University is still waiting for the auditors to verify the staff poll. These results will be made available as they come through.

Way forward 

The results of the poll as well as feedback from parents, alumni and other stakeholders will inform management’s decision-making. 

Management will also reach out to the student leadership, unions and other stakeholders to engage on a way forward. 

A decision as to whether the University will re-open on Monday will be communicated to students and staff via official University communication channels this weekend.

Draft pledge on access to higher education

- Wits University

[READ] Draft pledge that Wits University would have made at the General Assembly (postponed) today.

A congregation of the General Assembly at Wits University is called when the University community beforehand has reached consensus on a particular issue; in this case, the crisis in higher education. 

Through a mediation process that took place this week consensus was reached with all University constituencies including Council, Senate, Convocation, labour and staff, but not with the protesting students. This has led to the postponement of today’s General Assembly

At the General Assembly the University announces its pledge in the form of a declaration that is read out by the Chancellor. 

[READ] DRAFT_Wits University pledge on access to higher education.pdf

Wits extends suspension of University activities

- Wits University

Notice from the Senior Executive Team (13:30):

The Senior Executive Team of the University of the Witwatersrand, in consultation with the Executive Committee of Council, today, 23 September 2016, announced that all University operations will remain suspended until further notice.

If conditions conducive to the delivery of the academic programme do not improve, Wits may have to consider the closure of the University, including the residences in the interests of the safety and security of our staff, students and property.

We will keep all stakeholders, including staff, students and parents informed via official communication channels.

Stay informed

Counselling services offered to students after protests

- Wits University

Academic programme going ahead as scheduled.

Academic Programme

All assessments, lectures and University activities go ahead today as per the academic calendar.

Counselling services available to students

The Counselling and Careers Development Unit is providing counselling support for students who may need  trauma debriefing/counselling. Students are welcome to  visit the CCDU on West Campus or Education Campus for individual or group counselling/debriefing. If you cannot make it in person to their offices, please call 011 717 9140/32 or  072 486 9780 and a counsellor will call you back. The CCDU have also included additional information on its webpage that focuses on trauma and related important information. Read more at www.wits.ac.za/ccdu  and scroll down the page. 

Update from the Senior Executive Team - 17:00

- Wits University

"The University will resume normal activities once we can guarantee the safety and security of staff, students and property."

This is an update on our earlier communique on the suspension of University activities. The University will not be closed for an indefinite period and will resume normal activities once we can guarantee the safety and security of staff, students and property.

The decision was made after a careful assessment of the national context and the incidents of violence that took place in Braamfontein and Parktown this week, which resulted in injuries to protesting students, staff and security personnel. The University places human life and wellbeing above all else and cannot risk people sustaining further injury.

It is for this reason that we have suspended all University operations until further notice. Given the fluidity of the situation, we will only resume activities once we can guarantee the safety and security of staff and students.

If the situation does not improve, we may have to consider the closure of residences to enable a cooling off period so as to bring perspective to the situation. This is something we do not want to consider given the hardships it imposes on the vast majority of students. But neither can we leave the situation as is where the academic programme is compromised. We are currently investigating this issue, including its personal and legal ramifications, and will inform the University community on any further decisions in this regard in the coming days.

We are aware that this will impact on the academic project, and that both students and academics are concerned about the remainder of the academic year, the upcoming examinations and graduations. We will consult with academics about revising the academic programme and developing contingency plans to ensure that we do not lose the year. We cannot afford to compromise the education of 35 000 students, their futures, their families and those graduates who may enter the workplace next year.

We apologise to all members of the University community affected by the closure.

The SET is actively monitoring the situation and will keep all stakeholders apprised of developments. The SET will update the University community on Monday about the way forward.

Letters from concerned students, staff and parents

- Wits University

Following the suspension of University activities, Wits has received hundreds of emails and calls:

The University has received hundreds of emails and calls from students and parents, the majority of whom are concerned, angry and anxious about the future of the University, and who want classes to resume. This is following the announcement that all University activities will be suspended until further notice. Many people are afraid to air their views publicly as they do not want to be harassed or do not want to put their children in harm’s way.

We have published a selection of the responses below to provide an indication of the views of the silent majority. We have removed all names but have not changed the content of their responses. Feel free to share your views anonymously via vco.news@wits.ac.za |Also read the full response from the Senior Executive Team.

LETTERS:

4th YEAR ACCOUNTING STUDENT

I write this email to you as an extremely concerned 4th year Accounting Science student. After having received the last email from SET which states that there is a possibility that the university may be closed, I felt that I had to write you as the acting VC on behalf of all of the students who are not part of the FMF 2016 protest. 

Over the past, I have waited patiently for the protest to end and was careful not to infringe upon the rights of the students who want to protest to do so. However, it seems as though this protest could possibly lead to final exams not being written this year. I am in my final year of studies and as you can imagine, I cannot afford to not write my final exams this year and in a timely manner. I have to write my ITC (as per SAICA requirements) next year in January and SAICA will most probably not move the dates to accommodate Wits students as they have a set program. 

At this point, even though I feel ashamed to even request this of you, could you please ask for military intervention from the government to make sure that the academic program is re-instated as soon as possible. I am begging. I have to pass this year and start my training next year towards qualifying as a CA(SA) to make a better life for my family. As a young African female, I'm sure you understand that my family has sacrificed a lot in order for me to be at Wits for these past 4 years. I cannot bear to let them down now.

Please do consider stricter police control or even military intervention if necessary. The academic program must be re-instated as soon as possible.

2nd YEAR BA STUDENT

I wish to express my concern about the present situation at Wits and whether the academic activities will resume in time to complete the syllabus. My greatest concern however is for the final exams whether we will be able to write them in time as I live overseas with my parents, and need to book my tickets in advance. Please advise as to when academic activities will resume, and if not, as to whether we will be writing our final exams or not.

4th YEAR STUDENT

I am one of the few students that cannot afford to lose this time due to the protests. I have worked 4 years to be where I am and I want to finish my degree this year. I want to do my honours but I fear this will hinder my chances. This is the last chance I have to do the best I can. I am willing to go to lectures or write tests and exams in company parking lots or board rooms if need be. I don't know if this has been considered but I am sure many companies wouldn't mind helping out for those who want to carry on.

PART-TIME STUDENT

I am a student, in the WitsPlus department, and would like to enquire about a petition for students who would like to return to classes.

I am heartbroken by the destruction and violence on campus, and as a Witsie, who is proud to be part of such a prestigious university, I would like to encourage the university to spread a petition. I guarantee that the numbers would surprise you. 

I would love to return to the regular schedule, and to complete my year of study, as I am sure many other students would too. 

Please could we find a way to alleviate the stress and panic associated to these strikes, as many students who share my sentiments do not support the protesting students and their violence. 

I stand in full support of Wits University, and would love to continue my studies as soon as possible. And I would like to add that I know that I will be a proud member of the Wits alumni, and will uphold the university's name in the future. I stand with Wits!

STUDENT

Please consider some of us who want to make a better life for ourselves. This is detrimental to our education and future.

STUDENT

Well done to capitulating to the mob…and so the loud minority are set to get their way. A 1000 thugs…close down a campus of 30 000+…Where is law and order @WitsUniversity?

FIRST YEAR STUDENT

I am one of the students who would really want the academic programme to continue as soon as possible. It is very sad to see our very own students going beyond a protest into an extremely violent environment.

I hope that the University makes plans to ensure that the academic programme finishes on time and examinations run normally as well as re-assuring all the Wits students that the University and its workers are to be highly respected for what they hold as educators.

Most of all, make the students aware of the fact that their current studies are important for their future regardless for the fight for free education. They also need to respect the tertiary education that they are being given at this time.

PARENT

My son is currently doing his third year and daughter a postgraduate degree at Wits University and I am deeply concerned that the continued student protests and threat of the university not reopening anytime soon, will negatively impact on them passing this academic year. I strongly believe that everybody has a right to express their views, however it should never be to the detriment of one else. Many students only have one opportunity to study and will never get this opportunity again.

It is rather unfortunate that we do not have an effective and decisive leadership in this country, however the Constitution should still protect us even when leadership fails us. These students should not be allowed to infringe on the rights of others. Would there be a way to approach the public protector and if so, how can this be done?

To date students and parents with opposing views have been rather silent and I feel that if we collectively stand up and say enough is enough, perhaps we could put an end to this nonsense. Education is the only way in which we can emancipate ourselves from the cycle of poverty and inequities of the past.

These students should direct their anger and frustration where it is needed.

PARENT

I understand the reasons for the protest, but the manner of protest is unacceptable, and the Wits Executive must take equal responsibility due to their lack of appropriate response.  

For the violent mob breaking the law, every effort should be made to have them identified, arrested immediately, prosecuted, and receive a criminal record (which will follow them their whole life, affect their visits to foreign countries, deny them the potential of living in foreign lands), and possibly a jail term. This will discourage students from following the same violent action this time next year. They must learn that there are consequences to their actions! At the moment they can do as they please.

Where in this country is it acceptable to assault citizens, speak hate speech, destroy property, intimidate and threaten individuals – certainly at Wits. Why are these law-breaking protestors not being arrested? Why are they not being prosecuted? Why are these particular students immune to the laws governing our land?

What about the rights of the remaining law-abiding students? Where is the protection of their rights, to peaceful protest, to an education, to write their exams this year, who have paid an exorbitant amount in fees, who want to graduate, who want to work next year? How can Wits allow their rights to be trampled? Why is the University capitulating to the dictates of a violent minority? Why is the response so weak?

The University must be reopened immediately and the enforcement of the rule of law strictly applied.  Advise protestors that if they break the law then they will be arrested, that Wits will lay charges, and that they may land up with criminal records, jail time, and how this will follow them throughout their life and to all corners of the world. The rule of law must be applied and be seen to be applied.

PARENT 

I am writing in my capacity as a parent of two Wits students. I find the closure of the University extremely disappointing and disturbing. We are in the same position as last year where a violent minority are terrorising everyone else. I am very surprised that the University was not better prepared this year and that it is so simple for a few intimidating thugs to bring the whole University to a halt. Did we not anticipate another fees must fall protest? By capitulating so readily, we are promoting the culture of "break and burn". These students are learning to behave like spoilt children who throw tantrums to control everyone else. What happened to a mature University culture of tolerance and mutual respect?  These students do not understand the idea of peaceful protest or permitting different points of view. They have learned to use violence to get their own way and we are letting them get away with it. The same people who were the instigators last year are at the fore front again. Why do we permit this? These individuals have learned to manipulate the whole situation for their own personal political ends. They are in no way representative of the vast majority of students, but because they are intimidating we all stand aside. It is very concerning to see how readily a few dozen can disrupt the whole institution…I trust that the situation will be resolved urgently and that Wits will have proper plans in place for the next round. 

PARENT/ACADEMIC

What about exams? Our students need to write. How many of our 35 000 students want to finish? How can we suspend everything? How many students actually support this indefinite closure? Why is the University not canvassing students’ opinions through a survey? This news of indefinite closure is very perturbing and I write as a staff member and a concerned parent.

PARENT

As a parent (and an ex Witsie) I am deeply concerned for the "Silent majority". Most of the registered students are at university with the goal of obtaining a degree. They are keen to attend class, and would like to write tests and exams on the specified dates. THEY HAVE RIGHTS TOO - the right to attend class without fear of victimisation, the right to write tests and the right to support their own cause - which is to graduate… Is there a plan in place for the exam sessions, as we would like to know when exams are going to be written?

PARENT

It is most important that you determine what percentage of your students are involved in the protest or alternatively are unhappy about the fees issue and consequently determine which percentage of students are happy and eager to proceed with their studies as is and is in fact fed-up with the protests of the minority. You must have all students’ cell numbers. Take a referendum with 2 of 3 simple questions to determine this figure. If it is indeed only a small percentage then take severe action against them for the good of the majority of students and the good name of Wits. If it is not a mere minority but indeed a large component of the students that are unhappy then you have a problem which you will have to manage accordingly.

Wits Council calls on SA president to address higher education sector crisis

- Wits University

Statement from the Council of the University of the Witwatersrand:

The higher education sector in South Africa is in turmoil with ongoing student protests causing widespread disruptions and destruction. The focus of these protests is the unaffordability of higher education which is restricting access for a significant number of students. 

Access to higher education should not be the preserve of those who can afford it. At the same time, we cannot allow deterioration in quality. It is for this reason that the Council of the University of the Witwatersrand recently joined most other constituencies at the University in openly declaring its support to work towards the goal of free, fully-funded, quality, decolonised higher education. 

This goal must be considered within the broader context of the pervasive poverty, unemployment and inequality in our country. If one examines this context, it is clear that universities cannot be expected to achieve the goal of free, fully-funded, quality, decolonised higher education in isolation from other stakeholders, particularly government. 

The chronic underfunding of the higher education sector in the last two decades requires the immediate attention of those at the highest levels of government. 

We are deeply distressed by the proposed short-term funding levels. Our universities are a significant national priority. They are the only institutions that are capable of producing the high level skills that are required to advance innovation, tackle the challenges of the 21st century, and safeguard South Africa’s economy and its future. 

We are particularly distressed by the proposed funding for research-intensive universities, which we believe for a university like Wits will be 4% less than inflation next year. Our country needs high levels of investment in top-end research to create new knowledge that is relevant to society and that will enable us to participate in the global knowledge economy. This is also critical to enabling our universities to promote indigenous knowledge and its inclusion in curricula. 

One of the characteristics of world-class universities is the concentration of highly talented individuals, both students and staff. Universities are at risk of losing academic talent to the private sector and other countries if we cannot reward them adequately or create an environment that is conducive to learning, teaching and research.

The fact that numerous universities are unable to continue with the 2016 academic programme has immense consequences for the country. The unfortunate, but necessary and unavoidable presence of police and private security is a further tragedy. For these and many other reasons, it is imperative for stability to return to the sector. 

We note the efforts of the Minister of Higher Education and Training in trying to address this crisis. However, we are of the view that there is not sufficient appreciation of the fact that this is a national crisis of significant proportion, and that it therefore requires the President and his office to lead the thinking on resolutions. The inclusion of the National Treasury in the Ministerial Task Team is an important step in the right direction, but we believe that the President should be at the forefront of exploring options for the sustainable funding of higher education. 

The Council of the University of the Witwatersrand therefore calls on his Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr JG Zuma to urgently do the following

  1. Establish a multi-disciplinary, deliberative gathering that will explore sustainable funding options for higher education, which must ensure that no student who qualifies academically is excluded for financial reasons;
  2. Ensure that the gathering ultimately establishes clear timeframes and milestones; and
  3. Commit the necessary resources and capacity from government to ensure that the necessary work is undertaken expeditiously.

We also call on all relevant stakeholders, including Parliament, the private sector, civil society and others to join our request that public universities be adequately funded. We call on genuine student leadership to come forward and demonstrate real commitment to finding sustainable solutions. 

Our future, and that of future generations, is in our hands. Our inability to develop and support world-class universities today will have dire consequences tomorrow.” 

Message from the Senior Executive Team - 20:00

- Wits University

Petrol bombs found on campus

Three petrol bombs were found today on the Wits Braamfontein campus. They were found behind a building, close to a fence. The police are investigating the matter and the University will cooperate with them as required.

Today’s discovery provides strong evidence that there are people intent on arson who will go to any length to put the lives of the University community in danger and who are intent on destroying University property.

We condemn all violence in the strongest possible way and we are determined not to let this situation continue.

All University activities remain suspended until further notice. We will communicate with you on the way forward on Monday.

Is the claim that university ‘Fees Must Fall’ at odds with the democratic project?

- Wits University

Wits Chancellor, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, calls for an Education Codesa on FeesMustFall impasse.

The Chancellor of Wits University, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, calls for a Education Codesa to resolve the #FeesMustFall impasse.

Moseneke delivered at the 2016 Annual Founders Lecture, titled: Is the claim that university FeesMustFall at odds with the democratic project?, at UNISA on 27 October 2016. 

Examination procedures for students

- Wits University

Statement from the Senior Executive Team (17:00):

Examination procedures for students 

An email from the University Registrar detailing the examination procedures for students, including changes to venues and starting times and application processes for deferred examinations was sent to all students, followed by detailed communication from faculties. 

Academic programme 

All lectures pertaining to the 2016 academic programme are complete

Incidents 

A petrol bomb was thrown at a Wits bus in Hillbrow late last night. The petrol bomb shattered the window and the glass injured two students travelling on the bus. They were treated and are recovering. The fire that started in the bus was extinguished quickly by the security guard on board, who also helped the students off the bus. We condemn this violence in the strongest forms. A case has been opened and the police are investigating. Anyone with information should contact Campus Control on (011) 717-4444. 

Chancellor calls for an Education Codesa

The Chancellor of Wits University, Justice Dikgang Moseneke calls for a Education Codesa to resolve the #FeesMustFall impasse. Read the full text of the speech that he delivered at the 2016 Annual Founders Lecture at UNISA last night. 

Wits Council calls on President to address higher education crisis 

The Council of the University of the Witwatersrand called on the President of South Africa to urgently address the current crisis in the higher education sector.

Education Minister, VCs meet to discuss way forward

- Ministry of Higher Education

Statement by the Ministry of Higher Education and Training following a meeting with 26 vice-chancellors and rectors:

Today, 20 February 2015, the Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande held a meeting with the vice-chancellors of South Africa’s 26 public universities to discuss preparations and arrangements for the start of the new academic year.

Also in attendance were senior representatives of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSAFAS) and the Council on Higher Education (CHE).

Frank discussions were held. The Ministry expressed appreciation for the work that the vice-chancellors are doing to create a stable situation in our universities.

Vice-chancellors also expressed their appreciation for the support government has given the sector as well as for the able and supportive leadership of the Minister. The meeting welcomed the R6.9 billion additional funds that government has committed to university education.

It was confirmed that all qualifying students who have been offered a place at a university and who qualify for NSFAS funding can register without upfront payment. It was noted that substantial progress is being made with improving the functioning of NSFAS.

Each institution has payment plans in place for all categories of students. For the ‘missing middle’ group of students, the meeting noted the processes in place, including the new model to be piloted next year, as recommended in the Presidential Task Team report. Institutions have undertaken to address applicants on an individual basis and attempt to offer payment plans.

The meeting agreed that this is a moment of opportunity for reinventing and innovation, and for thinking deeply and constructively about different models to support an affordable higher education system. The Presidential Commission recently announced is the vehicle for this, and many hopes ride on it.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, our current funding model is dependent on fees, and therefore all students have to pay fees, whether funded by loans, bursaries, or families.

In many institutions registration has started, and we are encouraged by the progress made.

The Ministry and Vice-Chancellors call on students to register and start the academic year without disruptions, and on parents and the broader community to support universities to get learning underway as fast as possible.

We call on all concerned students, staff, and others who still have unmet demands or grievances and wish to continue protesting, to engage in legitimate and peaceful forms of protest. This will negate the need for an undesirable security presence on our campuses.

Violence is unacceptable, disruption of the functioning of institutions and violating the right to learn and work is unacceptable, and damage to property is unacceptable. We can’t afford more damage to institutional assets.

Our preliminary damage report suggests an estimated R150 million done to public property last year in the course of protests; fortunately this only affects a few institutions.

The current cost of security, necessary to protect the functioning of our education system, is exorbitant.

We appeal to our groups of protestors to make this expenditure unnecessary, so that it can be better spent on building our education system.

Statement by the Ministry of Higher Education and Training

Agreement reached on these three conditions

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (11:00) on agreement reached, academic programme and General Assembly:

We thank you for your commitment to the University and for working with us through this difficult period. 

Academic programme

The resumption and completion of the 2016 academic programme is a key priority for the University in the next few weeks. We are revising the academic calendar and developing a new examinations timetable. These plans will be discussed at a meeting of Senate before being circulated to the University community. 

Summary of agreement with students 

The three points agreed to with students (via mediators) are summarised below:

  1. The academic programme will resume on Monday, 10 October 2016. Students have committed to working with management to save the 2016 academic year.
  2. The police will be withdrawn from Wits’ campuses and will remain on the perimeter. We have the express commitment from all parties that there will be no violence or intimidation of students and staff, and that there will be no destruction of property.
  3. All stakeholders will work together towards holding a General Assembly on Friday, 7 October 2016. It will focus on obtaining a consensual position on the principle of access to higher education. 

There is much misinformation on social media and on other platforms about the terms of the agreement. 

While there are many other aspects to resolve, these are the only three conditions on which agreement have reached. 

A negotiated outcome is in the broader interests of all stakeholders. 

Racist remarks 

There are several individuals making racist and defamatory remarks on multiple platforms including at public gatherings and in the media. The University condemns all forms of hate speech and racism in any form. We find the comments by these individuals abhorrent and will investigate all complaints received in this regard. 

We are aware that many racist remarks were made this morning where participants in a march organised by a group of students called #TakeBackWits were confronted by some protesting students. The situation was managed by Campus Control. 

Voice clip 

We are aware of a voice clip that has been circulating on social media inciting violence against particular race groups. Please do not continue to share these clips. The information has been passed on to the Wits security and legal teams, as well as the police, and will be investigated. We are requesting anyone with further information about the source of the clip to share it with the Head of Security, Mr Mokgawa Kobe on (011) 717-1852 or the Legal Office. 

We will keep you updated via the University’s official communication channels on developments as they progress.

Update: Disruption of University activities - 10:00

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement on protest violating court order.

A group of about 30 people have threatened students queuing outside the Fees Office. The Fees Office and all other offices on the Ground Floor have thus been temporarily shut. 

We have also been notified that some lectures in Senate House and in buildings on the Wits East Campus have been disrupted. The students were joined by some employees of shopkeepers in the Matrix Student Centre and the Matrix has now been closed. The group has now moved to the piazza outside the Great Hall, while some students have moved to the West Campus. 

The University’s management condemns this behaviour which is a direct violation of the court order obtained by the University and members of Campus Control have been deployed to stabilise the situation. 

We will keep you updated as to further developments. Please report any incidents to Campus Control in person or via telephone at (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666. If required, medical assistance is available at Campus Health in the Matrix.

 

 

 

What to do if disruption occurs

- Wits University

Guidelines for how to respond when faced with disruptions, violence or threats:

1. Remain calm and advise your students to do the same. Do not antagonise or provoke persons causing the disruption.

2. If there is a physical threat to anyone, vacate the venue immediately. 

a. When leaving a venue make sure that it is safe to do so and make your way to a safe area

b. If you are in a multi-level building, briskly follow the escape route indicators or your safety officer, until you are able to find your way out of the building

c. Do not re-enter buildings, offices, lecture rooms, halls or any other University areas that have been disrupted

d. Assist visitors, students and disabled persons to leave the occupied/disrupted area

e. Call Campus Control and report the incident

3. If there is no immediate physical threat, ask students to remain seated and call Campus Control.

4. If you are threatened or provoked in any way, or prevented from leaving a building, lecture room, office or any other University area, call Campus Control and await assistance and/or instructions from Campus Control.

5. Campus Control will have personnel dedicated to answering the numbers listed below. They will immediately deploy a rapid response team closest to your area to attend to the incident.

6. Campus Control will summon emergency personnel to the scene as required.

7. Report all incidents to Campus Control in as much detail as possible.

8. Refer any students or staff members who require medical assistance to the Campus Health and Wellness Centre. Anyone who needs counselling should go to CCDU.

9. Please always obey the instructions provided by Campus Control.

Should you feel unsafe, threatened or intimidated in any way, or wish to report an incident, please make your way to your nearest Campus Control Office or call the following numbers:

Campus Control Emergency Numbers

Braamfontein Campus

Room 1, Central Block (Great Hall) – Main Control Room (CB1)

011 717 4444 / 011 717 6666

Health Sciences Campus, Parktown

Control Room

011 717 2222 / 011 717 2232

Education Campus, Parktown

Control Room

011 717 3340

Management Campus, Parktown

Guard House

011 717 3589

Classes and exams disrupted but academic programme resumes on Monday

- Wits University

Students who have been identified as having violated the University’s rules are being suspended.

Academic Programme

Several lectures and two tests were disrupted today on the Braamfontein campuses. In many cases, protesting students entered classrooms pretending to sit for a lecture and/or test before setting off firecrackers and stink bombs to disperse students. They also blew whistles extremely loudly so that lectures and tests could not continue and students panicked and evacuated the rooms. In some cases, students continued with lectures outside the classrooms.

A test was disrupted in the New Commerce Building while about 500 law students were unable to complete their tests this afternoon.

Students tried to disrupt lectures at the Faculty of Health Sciences in Parktown this morning but were moved out of the building by private security and the police.

Aside from those listed above, all lectures and tests were conducted successfully across our campuses. Despite the disruptions that occurred today, the academic programme will continue on Monday.

Examination Protocols

There are many students and staff expressing concern as to whether sufficient security will be in place to ensure that examinations are not disrupted. The University has developed a separate, extensive security plan to ensure that examinations are written without disruption.

Arrests and suspensions

Four students were arrested on our campuses today for contravening a court order. Students who have been identified as having violated the University’s rules are being suspended.

Violation of rights

The University respects the rights of those who want to protest, but not at the expense of the Constitutional rights of those who want to work and learn. The behaviour of the protesting students today is unacceptable and is a clear violation of the rights of those who chose to attend classes. The University is reviewing camera footage of today’s incidents and will act against those who are responsible.

Relaxation on the movement of residence students

Given the assurances provided by student leaders and staff at Campus Housing and Residence Life, we have made the decision to relax the restrictions on the movement of residence students. We had considered lifting the restrictions completely, but given the attempted arson on our campuses last night and other incidences of violence, this is not possible. These are temporary measures that will be progressively lifted as the situation stabilises.

This means that for this weekend, students need to remain within their residences or areas of study between midnight and 5am. Should they wish to leave to a learning venue during this period, they will be escorted back to their residences by Campus Control, who will be stationed outside these centres.  Several learning centres have been opened including laboratories on several campuses and 24-hour reading rooms.

Reporting incidents

We encourage students and staff to report all incidents to Campus Control on (011) 717-4444 and to pass on all material and complaints to the Head of Campus Control via mokgawa.kobe@wits.ac.za or hand it in to the Legal Office.

Further, if anyone feels that Campus Control or private security have used excessive force, they should report it immediately to the Head of Campus Control or the Legal Office. All complaints about the police on campus can be made here and should simultaneously be reported to IPID for investigation.

Any students who are injured should immediately make their way to the Campus Health and Wellness Centre or call (011) 717-9111 if the emergency has to be treated on site.

Communication

Please note that the information provided via these daily updates intends to provide a macro overview of developments across the University, and does not reflect the individual experiences of people on the ground. It is also based on the information that we have at the time of sending the email.

Update from the Senior Executive Team (10:00)

- Wits University

The University remains calm this morning without incident.

A security and police presence remains on all campuses.

We have further taken the decision to ensure that dining halls remain open and that a limited bus service is provided, where possible. Cleaning services remain suspended.

Many other university campuses have also experienced disruptions or closures across the country including the University of Cape Town, the University of Pretoria, the Durban University of Technology, Stellenbosch University, North West University’s Mahikeng campus, Unisa, the Tshwane University of Technology, the University of Fort Hare, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Sefako Makgato University of Health Sciences.

Minor disruptions were experienced and violence was reported at the University of the North West, University of Johannesburg and the Vaal University of Technology.

A further update will follow later today.

Examinations went ahead as planned today

- Wits University

Students who feel traumatised or unprepared to write examinations due to the recent protests are advised to apply for deferred examinations.

EXAMINATIONS

Examinations went ahead today without disruption.

DEFERRED EXAMINATIONS

Following the court ruling that was made this morning, the University would like to advise students who feel traumatised or unprepared to write examinations due to the recent protests, to apply for deferred examinations. The process has been streamlined to include both print and online applications and we have endeavoured to make the process as easy as possible for students.

Students are also encouraged to visit their Faculty Officers if they have any further queries around the process for the deferment of examinations.

Students can now apply online for deferred examinations via the Wits Student Self-Service system. Log in to the Wits Student Portal via https://self-service.wits.ac.za then navigate to the Main Menu > Self-Service > Wits Student Self Service > Application for Deferred Exam. Please remember that you have three days from the date of the original examination to apply for a deferred examination.

COUNSELLING SERVICES

Students who require counselling should please contact the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) on (011) 717-9140 / 32 or visit the CCDU offices.

 

Safety and Security at Wits

- Wits University

The University will take action against anyone involved in acts of violence on our campuses, in line with our rules, policies and procedures.

The University continues with its academic programme this week as planned.

Please note that we have instructed security officers to check the access cards of individuals entering our campuses and using our infrastructure. This follows recent unlawful activities, including attempted arson, malicious damage to property, the burning of a bus, the setting alight of a mattress at the back of a library and the vandalisation of University property, that took place last week. Seven students have since been barred and/or suspended or partially suspended from our campuses.

These incidents have created a need for heightened security on our campuses, in order to protect the safety and security of our staff, students and visitors. We request you to please cooperate with the security officers and to exercise patience in this regard.

Protests at the University of Pretoria and University of the Free State

Many staff and students would have seen shocking images relating to the physical altercations that took place at the University of Pretoria yesterday following disagreement on the University’s language policy. Similarly, violence erupted at the University of the Free State last night when some individuals tried to disrupt a Varsity Cup match that was underway.

We condemn all forms of violence in the strongest possible terms and reiterate that we will not tolerate violence on our campuses. The University will take action against anyone involved in acts of violence on our campuses, in line with our rules, policies and procedures.

Condoning violence as a form of protest

It is also deeply concerning that a number of movements, including the #RhodesMustFall and the #WitsFeesMustFall groups, yesterday openly condoned violence and destruction as a form of protest. This view has also been supported in other settings by some academics and political activists. Read more.

This flirtation with violence and its romanticisation is absurd and should be denounced by all societal role-players with urgency. Given our context and the challenges that we face, the violence and racism that are encapsulated in these incidents cannot be addressed through security measures only. It is incumbent on everyone at Wits – staff, students and other stakeholders, and indeed all societal actors, to isolate those who continue to deliberately perpetrate this cowardly behaviour.   

Let us be clear – this does not mean that you should take the law into your own hands. If you do feel threatened or unsafe, or if you have witnessed an incident, report it to Campus Control immediately. Campus Control is responsible in the first instance for securing our campuses and for protecting those who learn, work or visit the University. If an incident occurs, Campus Control will liaise with security, the police and/or emergency services as required.

Conclusion

We thank you, our staff and students, for your patience during this trying time.

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

23 FEBRUARY 2016

Wits completes 2016 academic year, ready for 2017 intake

- Wits University

All examinations were concluded successfully yesterday, without disruption. Supplementary and deferred examinations will now be written in December and January.

The University of the Witwatersrand announced today that it has completed its 2016 academic year. All examinations were concluded successfully yesterday, without disruption. Supplementary and deferred examinations will now be written in December and January (depending on the faculty) as part of the second sitting.

This season’s graduation ceremonies at Wits University will run from the 6th to the 13th of December 2016.

“Despite the disruptions experienced in September and October, through extending the academic calendar and revising examination dates, we effectively lost only three teaching days. We are pleased that the 2016 academic year has been concluded successfully,” says Professor Adam Habib, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal. “We look forward to welcoming our new students in 2017. We have received almost 70 000 applications for 6 200 first year places, and all applications have already been processed. Firm offers will be made once matriculation results are announced. We continue to process postgraduate applications.”

Habib adds that he is hopeful that a solution will be found in the coming weeks to the underfunding of the higher education sector and what essentially amounts to a national political problem that can only be solved at that level.

“The successful completion of the academic year under strenuous circumstances was no easy feat and would not have been possible were it not for the unwavering commitment of the University community including its students, staff, parents, alumni, donors and others who supported the University during this time,” he says. “We thank each and every person who contribute to making Wits great.”

Statement on violence in Braamfontein

- Wits University

Wits condemns the acts of violence that led to arrests and injuries.

Dear Colleagues and Students

 Despite all University activities being suspended, about 600 - 800 students continued to protest on our campuses and in Braamfontein today.

Following a mass meeting on the Concourse of Solomon Mahlangu House, the students made their way onto the streets of Braamfontein, where they were confronted by the police. The police dispersed the group using stun grenades and rubber bullets. We have reports of four students being injured. They are being treated by paramedics and staff at the Campus Health and Wellness Centre.

Students also confronted private security on Yale Road South. The police intervened and two students were arrested today.

The University strongly condemns these acts of violence.

All University activities remain suspended for the rest of the week. Catering, bus and cleaning services have also been suspended following threats by some students.

The next update will follow tomorrow morning.

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

21 SEPTEMBER 2016 (17:00)

Update on the implementation of Wits’ Transformation Plan

- Wits University

The University announced an accelerated plan to advance transformation through a number of key strategies.

 An update on the progress made in each of these areas follows below.

       1. DIVERSIFYING THE ACADEMY

Following the approval of Senate and Council, a budget of R45 million to diversify the academy was earmarked and two committees were established to oversee the implementation of this strategy. The first committee is responsible for making appointments and allocating grants to enable African and Coloured staff to apply for promotion to the professoriate. The Transformation Steering Committee is responsible for monitoring progress on this front and for advising on policy and programmatic action.

To date, 19 appointments have been made to diversify the academy and 18 interviews are underway across faculties. In addition, 37 enabling grants totalling R6 million have been awarded to academics across the five faculties. The implementation of this strategy has been successful and we look forward towards completing it in the near future.

     2. CURRICULUM REFORM

This component of the transformation plan has filtered through the University and Deans and Heads of Schools have reported progress to the Transformation Implementation Committee.

 The Faculty of Health Sciences has held several workshops with outcomes that are currently being implemented.

 The Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment is addressing transformation in innovative ways through the introduction of additional classes, cross-disciplinary programmes, an internship year and short courses. The Faculty is also piloting a mechanism for students to immediately repeat failed courses and a programme with WitsPlus to allow working students to complete their Honours degrees part-time.

A substantial engagement was hosted by the Faculty of Humanities earlier this year. The discussions will continue within schools and departments. A detailed report has been produced by the Faculty with a list of programmes that will be implemented in each School. The Faculty has also undertaken a substantial survey to better understand its first year students.

All schools in the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management are engaged in discussions and revisions of the curriculum. For example, the new MBA programme in the Wits Business School significantly integrates local business challenges. The School of Economic and Business Sciences is working with other South African and African universities to develop an African-focused economics curriculum. 

All staff and students are encouraged to work within their respective schools and disciplines to continuously assess and address the substantive content of all curricula to ensure that our academic programmes are transformative, innovative, relevant and appropriate, and that they speak to our national and continental issues and priorities.

    3. LANGUAGE POLICY 

The University’s Language Policy has been approved by Senate and Council and the executive team is developing a plan to resource its implementation. All official University letterheads are also being revised to reflect information in three languages – English, isiZulu and Sesotho. 

   4. INSTITUTIONAL NAMING

The Institutional Naming Committee has been expanded to include representatives from all stakeholders in the University, including students. The University’s Naming Policy has been revised and was approved by Senate and Council late last year. Three meetings of the new Committee have already taken place. The first and third were ordinary meetings, whilst the second was a special sitting to review proposals that were made in 2015 to rename buildings at Wits. However, as the policy was under review last year, the meeting was held over to 2016.

A call for proposals was issued for the renaming of the University's places and spaces and the Committee considered a number of proposals that were put forward. These included submissions to rename a building after Robert Sobukwe as well as a proposal to rename a building or space from names that celebrate, commemorate or are symbolic of struggles for gender equality or achievements. The Committee will apply its mind to these proposals at its next meeting. Several submissions to rename Senate House were also reviewed and the Naming Committee unanimously agreed that Senate House should be renamed Solomon Mahlangu House. Following consultation with various stakeholders, these recommendations were ratified by Council in 2016. A second call for proposals to rename buildings and spaces at Wits will be made in 2017, with a focus on naming after symbolic events and/or evocative descriptions of a particular place, and naming after women who have played key roles in academia.

   5. INSOURCING

The Insourcing Task Team (ITT), made up of representatives of workers, management, students and academics, holds regular meetings and is making significant progress. An update was circulated last week in this regard.

   6. INSTITUTIONAL CULTURE

As part of transforming the institution, the Transformation and Employment Equity Office (TEEO) has rolled out four dialogue sessions to give the University community a platform to discuss pertinent issues and critically engage in a safe environment.

Topics covered so far are Eradicating racism, Decolonisation and Transformation, The intersectionality of queerness, race and gender, and The Politics of Intersectionality and Intrasectionality in Allyship.  Most of the sessions were well attended and the University community enjoyed them. Videos of the sessions will be available online for viewing by early 2017. The TEEO will continue to hold these robust discussions to find solutions that will facilitate and influence an inclusive and empowering culture in the University.

The TEEO is in the advanced stage of rolling out the Focus Group sessions in order to facilitate discussions around the themes that emanated from the climate surveys. The rollout of these sessions is planned for 2017. The University community will be notified once the preparations have been concluded. The TEEO will formalise the mediation process and procedure as a preferred dispute mechanism on issues of conflict. The information on mediation is currently being uploaded to the TEEO website and will be ready to go live in early 2017. Furthermore, the TEEO is in the process of enhancing and strengthening the anti-discrimination policy so that it reflects the procedure and process on addressing issues of racism, and all forms of oppression that might be experienced as a crime against humanity.

An advisory committee will be formed to address issues raised and to decide on a proper sanction based on the misconduct. Once the policy has been enhanced, it will be circulated to the relevant structures for approval before its implemented.

The TEEO’s website is currently being revamped and will be available to the University community in early 2017.  

   7. PROMOTING A DIVERSE AND  COSMOPOLITAN RESIDENCE LIFE EXPERIENCE 

Two task teams were established last year to promote diversity in residences. The first was to explore the existing criteria for admission into residences and to make recommendations in this regard. This has been undertaken and new criteria are being drafted which will be circulated to stakeholders in the University community for comment. 

The second team was jointly managed by the Transformation Office, the Student Affairs Division and the Gender Equity Office. The team was tasked with exploring the experiences of current students in residences. This is an ongoing process. The team, which consists of members from the Transformation Office, the Office of Student Affairs, the Gender Equity Office and Drama for Life are working on trans-divisional interventions to address some of the issues that emerged from the residence inquiry and a programme in this regard is underway.

   8. ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION

Most constituencies in the University agree that free, fully funded, quality, decolonised higher education is possible and we are committed to finding effective measures to achieve this goal. A draft pledge was adopted by most constituencies in October this year. 

Wits has also made a submission to the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education Funding established by the President last year. Wits’ submission was made by Professor Hlonipha Mokoena from the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, who chaired a panel that consulted with various Wits constituencies. The funding of students is not separate from the type of universities or higher education system that we want and in our case what kind of university Wits should be. In discussing the funding of students and universities, we will inevitably be addressing the larger and necessary question of a vision for the system and all institutions therein.

   CONCLUSION

Transformation remains an imperative for the University and it is a process that should be owned by every individual in our respective capacities. We trust that through respectful engagement and a commitment to real transformation, we can emerge from these engagements stronger together.

 

Statement from Wits University - 16:00

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team on the situation on campus on Tuesday:

It has been an incredibly disappointing day for the University today. You may have seen dramatic footage of the video clips, tweets and images of rocks been thrown outside the Great Hall, of students breaking doors and windows to gain access to buildings and others being intimidated and threatened with weapons.

Some staff members and four students sustained injuries today.

This is not what Wits represents and goes against everything that we hold dear as a University – the ability to respect the rights of others, to treat each other with humanity and the ability to use our intellectual skills to convince others of our perspective. It breaks down the trust between peers, students, staff and others and creates an environment that is unsuitable for teaching, learning and engagement.

Wits is home to 36 300 students and over 5 000 staff members, the majority of whom want to learn and work. The rights of our staff and students were violated today, and there was significant damage to property, despite the additional security that we deployed and the presence of the police on our campuses. We view these matters in a serious light and we are working to identify the perpetrators so that they can be dealt with in line with the rules of the University and the laws of our country. Anyone with information and footage should share it with Campus Control.

We have reached out to the student leadership in an attempt to resolve matters this evening. We will keep you abreast of developments in this regard and a way forward later today.

Minor incidents reported as all lectures went ahead today

- Wits University

Protestors urged to keep to designated areas of protest.

Academic Programme

All lectures, assessments and tests went ahead today as per the academic calendar.

Incidents

Two incidents were reported today. A firecracker was thrown into an open window in a classroom at the FNB Building on the Braamfontein West Campus. The class was affected but after a few minutes, students settled down and the lecture resumed. There are reports that firecrackers were also set off on the Wits Education Campus but no classes were disrupted. 

We have just been alerted that a group of people are blocking roads and throwing stones at cars on Jan Smuts Avenue between Ameshoff and Jorissen Streets. We are not sure whether Wits students are involved in this incident. The police are on scene and they are managing the situation.

Designated protest areas

We remind all students and staff of the designated areas for protest and ask all members of the Wits community to adhere to these rules. The only designated areas for protest are: 

  1. on the Piazza outside the Great Hall  on the Braamfontein Campus and
  2. outside the Linder Auditorium / cafeteria on the Education Campus.

University suspends all activities

- Wits University

Statement from the Senior Executive Team:

Following the events of today, and considering the safety of our staff and students, we, the Senior Executive Team of the University of the Witwatersrand, in consultation with the Chairperson of Council, have taken the decision to suspend all University activities for the rest of the week.

Academics, professional, administrative and support staff and students need not come onto Wits' campuses tomorrow.  However, residences and dining halls should operate as usual and staff in these areas should report for duty.

We condemn the actions of those who perpetrated acts of violence on our campus today. We are identifying them and will take action in line with the University's rules and the law.

The Executive Committee of Council will meet tomorrow and the University will communicate further thereafter.

14 individuals arrested on campus today

- Wits University

About 14 individuals were arrested and taken to the Hillbrow Police Station on Friday for violating a court order obtained by the University earlier this year.

Some of these individuals, not all of whom are students, have been involved in a number of unlawful activities on our campuses in recent days.

These criminal activities include the unlawful occupation of the Senate House Concourse, attempted arson, malicious damage to property, the alleged burning of a bus, the setting alight of a mattress at the back of a library and the vandalisation of University property.

The safety and security of our staff, students and visitors to our campuses is paramount and the University was left with no choice but to have these individuals arrested as they posed a threat to the 33 000 students and 5 000 staff on our campuses.

In line with the University’s rules, policies and procedures, some members of the group, may also be suspended and/or barred from our campuses.

There are some that argue that the University is criminalising protest. This is completely untrue. The activities that we have witnessed in recent days are criminal, and we are responding accordingly. As a University we cannot tolerate criminal acts on our campuses. 

There are others who have been involved in aiding and abetting these criminal activities on campus and they will also be held accountable for their actions.

Additional security

Given the incidents that have occurred in the last two days, we have no option but to once again deploy a strong security contingent throughout our campuses, including on our bus routes. This once again redirects resources away from where it is needed most – accommodation, food and support for needy students. 

We will keep you updated.

Senior Executive Team

 

19 February 2016

Management reiterates its complete commitment to negotiations

- Wits University

Update from Senior Executive Team (14:00):

Incidents today

We have just had reports of about 50 – 60 protestors entering the Matrix Student Centre and using fire crackers to alarm and disperse students in the Centre. A cleaner fainted and she is being treated by a doctor in the Campus Health and Wellness Centre. 

The protesting students are also breaking concrete dustbins to use them as rocks. The police are on scene managing the situation. They are containing the protest on the Library Lawns. 

We have also had reports of stink bombs being used to disrupt lectures in some classes on the Braamfontein Campus this morning. Students and lecturers have moved to the next available venue, where this has occurred. 

Management’s engagement with students 

We are still waiting for a time for the meeting to take place today. The mediators are consulting with student leaders in this regard and we are hopeful that this can take place soon. It is anticipated that the actual meeting between 20 student leaders and management representatives, facilitated by the independent mediators, will take place in a closed room in Solomon House.

This meeting will be live streamed via streaming.wits.ac.za  

Permission has been granted for staff members and students to watch the meeting on a big screen on the Ground Floor of Solomon House this evening. Please note that Solomon House cannot be used during the course of the day because it compromises lectures. We have no issue with another venue or the use of Solomon House after 5pm. 

We have repeatedly heard student leaders say that management is not willing to negotiate. This is blatantly untrue.

We are completely committed to negotiations. Our only condition is that the live streaming of the negotiations to a mass meeting cannot take place in Solomon House during lecture hours because this compromises the academic programme. We call on student leaders not to make misleading public statements in this regard. 

Again we reiterate: we are completely committed to negotiations.

Restrictions lifted

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team (10:00):

Incidents 

No incidents were reported over the weekend.

Restrictions lifted 

In view of the fact that the University has not experienced any incidents in the last few days, restrictions pertaining to the movement on campus at night have been lifted. Further, libraries, computer laboratories and learning venues will be open as normal with the appropriate security. The bus services will also be increased beyond 8pm. Follow @WitsServices on Twitter for updates.

Publications of the revised examinations timetables

The revised examination timetables have been published. There have been some changes to the venues and times of some examinations. Please view the revised timetables and contact your respective school or faculty for further details.

Online application for deferred examinations

Students can now apply online for deferred examinations via the Wits Student Self-Service system. Log in to the Wits Student Portal via https://self-service.wits.ac.za then navigate to the Main Menu > Self-Service > Wits Student Self Service > Application for Deferred Exam. Please remember that you only have three days from the date of the original examination to apply for a deferred examination..

Wits bus set alight in Braamfontein

- Wits University

Bus services run with additional security and pick-ups and drop-offs will occur within campus perimeters.

Academic programme

The academic programme will go ahead as per the academic calendar.

Incidents

There were several incidents that occurred off campus late yesterday afternoon. It started when a group of people blocked and stoned police and motorists in Braamfontein. A police van and a Rea Vaya bus were also torched. The police are investigating these incidents.

Wits bus set alight

Wits was alerted at around 21:30 that a Wits bus travelling from Esselen Street to the Education Campus was set alight on Queens Road in Parktown. Reports indicate that there were about 15 people on the bus when a fire was started on the bus by one of the passengers. The fire spread throughout the bus. Some of the passengers alerted the bus driver who stopped the bus and the passengers alighted. The emergency services were alerted and the fire was extinguished. No injuries have been reported.

We condemn these criminal acts of arson in the strongest form. These acts of violence put the lives of students and others at risk and we are working with police to track down the perpetrators so that they can be brought to book as soon as possible. Anyone with any information pertaining to this incident or any other crime should report it (even anonymously) to 072 256 7951 or call Campus Control on (011) 717-4444 or email campus.control@wits.ac.za with details.

Bus services

The bus services will run with additional security this morning. Pick-ups and drop-offs will occur within campus perimeters. Please follow @WitsServices on Twitter for details of the bus schedules.

Wits classes to resume on Monday, 10 October 2016

- Wits University

Statement from the Senior Executive Team (22:00)

The Council of the University of the Witwatersrand agreed that the University will reopen on Monday, 10 October 2016, to ensure the continuation of the learning, teaching, research and administrative activities of the University, and the successful completion of each individual student’s academic year.

This is for the benefit of all students – undergraduate and postgraduate, local and international, full-time and part-time and all staff – academic, professional, administrative and international. 

We are committed to completing the 2016 academic programme and to ensuring that examinations are written. Senate has approved a revised calendar for 2016, as well as developed contingency plans to ensure that examinations are written.

It is clear that everyone in the University community has the same goal – to work as a community to realise the goal of free, quality higher education. We firmly believe that this can be done at the same time as finishing the academic year. No student should see a year’s worth of work come to naught, along with the financial sacrifices that they, and their families have had to make.

We believe that this campaign has been strengthened by a collective commitment from the entire University community to seek meaningful and speedy ways to make university education accessible, but it is also clear that the majority of the University community and society at large desperately want to save the academic programme of the University. Our approach is to do both.

We call on all students, parents, staff and stakeholders to join us in this approach, to ensure that everyone has a chance to write, to pass, to create space for the next year of university intakes while at the same time giving equal priority to the broader political issues of funding and transformation.

The University has made several commitments in the last week:

  1. The University has responded to the challenge led by students and made a commitment to joining the national call for free education. Read the draft declaration.
  2. The University will hold a General Assembly once all constituencies agree on a unified stance around the issue.

We will continue to reach out to student leaders and channels remain open for other engagements but we cannot afford the ongoing loss of the academic programme.

The University will reopen but we are obliged to put in place the following conditions:

  1. We fully support the right to peaceful protest. Students will be allowed to protest, but only in specific, identified areas. Large groups of people engaged in protest action will not be allowed to gather outside the designated areas.
  2. We are all completely opposed to the intimidation of staff or students or the disruption of academic activities. As such, any person/s intimidating students to leave a classroom or building, or disrupting any University activity, may be suspended.
  3. We are completely opposed to violent protest.  As such, anyone carrying rocks, stones, weapons or any other items that can be used to destroy property or inflict harm, will immediately be disarmed, and may be suspended. Any person using items to deliberately conceal their identity, may be suspended.
  4. Rigorous control of access to the University, including comprehensive and sporadic checks of all vehicles, including buses, will be implemented. All staff and students will be required to carry their access cards with them, as is the norm.
  5. All persons arrested by the police may immediately be suspended.
  6. All suspensions will immediately be processed for finalisation through disciplinary hearings.

We appeal to every student and staff member to please bear with us during this difficult week as we work towards getting the academic programme back on track, which is in the interest of every Wits student. 

Our success can only be achieved if we all work together – we are stronger together.

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

8 OCTOBER 2016 (22:00)

Management trying to engage protesting students

- Wits University

Update from Senior Executive Team (13:00):

As you know, there are demonstrations on the Braamfontein campuses and lectures have been disrupted. Lectures on the Parktown campuses have continued without disruption.

We have reports of two students being arrested and one student and one staff member being injured. We have had reports of rocks and bottles thrown at buildings and the police. The police are managing the situation. They have tried to disperse the students using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.

For your own safety, we advise all staff and students who are not part of the protests to remain indoors, to stay away from the protests, and to lock buildings and offices until further notice.

We will advise on a way forward regarding the remainder of today’s academic activities in the next hour. If in doubt, please speak to your respective Head of School, Dean or Executive member.

We have been trying to reach student leaders but they do not want to engage.

Eight students suspended, 11 arrested

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (10:00):

Academic programme 

We have been alerted to some disruptions at the Wits Science Stadium this morning where classes with almost full attendance were running this morning. Some physics and maths classes were disturbed by small groups while a group of about 30 students were singing outside. Security and police were present and lectures have resumed. 

Another small group entered the Matrix Student Centre trying to close down shops. This has been resolved. 

Response to last night's violence on our campuses 

We view the events of last night as a full attack on the University's infrastructure and property. Following a meeting of some students at Solomon House last night, about 20 - 30 protesting students spread out through the Braamfontein campuses. 

A fire was started on the West Campus lawn near the DJ Du Plessis Building. This was put out quickly by security. Stones were then thrown at the buildings on West Campus including the Zesty Lemon restaurant. 

Fires were then started in garbage bins near the Matrix, the old Grand Stand in the Science Stadium, the Old Mutual Sports Hall and the Speech and Hearing Clinic. These were all extinguished quickly. 

Police vehicles and fire engines were stoned when they drove onto campus. One Wits Security Officer was injured after a rock was thrown at him. He was taken to Milpark Hospital where he received seven stitches. He is recovering now. 

Management is deliberating on measures to put in place to ensure that these criminal offences do not recur. The measures will be announced later today. 

Suspensions and arrests 

Eight students have been suspended by the University this week and 11 have been arrested.  

Update from the Senior Executive Team (15:30)

- Wits University

Statement from SET to clarify the chain of events as they occurred today:

In the early hours of this morning, we learnt from the mediators that the protesting students did not agree to the draft pledge that was circulated yesterday. We further learnt that the students had shifted the goalposts and had a new set of demands. The new demands indicated that the protesting students wanted the University, and all other higher education institutions to remain closed until government gave everyone free education. 

Following discussions with the representatives of various constituencies within the University, the Senior Executive Team made the decision to postpone the General Assembly until consensus on the pledge was reached. Further, there were many safety and security risks associated with today’s event. This decision was taken just before 08:30 this morning and staff and students were alerted to it. A media conference was held at 09:00. The students subsequently held their own press conferences and events throughout the day. 

We are willing to engage and work with student leaders, mediators and organisations to break the current impasse. 

Way forward 

The Senior Executive Team remains committed to completing the 2016 academic year. The Council of the University will meet this weekend and direction on a way forward for the remainder of the year will be provided on Sunday morning.

University continues to operate as usual

- Wits University

The Wits Senior Executive Team assures staff and students that University continues to operate as usual.

It has come to our attention that a group of students are threatening to shut down the Wits campus today.

We would like to assure you that the University continues to operate as usual and that the academic programme goes ahead as planned. We have had no disruptions to the academic programme since the start of this semester and we are determined to keep it this way.

Additional security has been brought onto all campuses and the Public Order Police Services are on standby, should they be required.

We ask all staff and students to remain calm if any incident occurs, to exercise patience and restraint and to walk away from difficult situations. Please report all incidents to Campus Control on (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666 or in person at your nearest Campus Control Office. Staff members should also advise their line managers of any incidents.

We will keep you updated throughout the day.

Senior Executive Team

19 February 2016

 

Impact of protests on Wits community

- Wits University

UPDATE FROM THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM (10:00):

University activities 

The academic programme continues today as per the academic calendar. 

Incidents 

This morning four students tried to disrupt a lecture in the New Commerce Building and set off a fire cracker in a lecture in the FNB Building. The lecturer and students continued with the lecture outside the venue. Campus Control is following up on this matter. 

Unfortunately some WitsPlus lectures were disrupted on the Wits West campus last night. Two cars were also overturned by protesting students on the Wits Braamfontein campus yesterday. Anyone with information, images or videos should please pass it on to the Head of Campus Control, Mr Mokgawa Kobe on 011 717-1853 or at Mokgawa.Kobe@wits.ac.za. 

Two cars were set on fire last night – one on Hostel Drive and another outside the Old Mutual Sports Hall. One fire was put out but the second car was gutted. Video footage shows that three suspects were involved in this incident. One person broke the window of the car, poured a flammable substance in through the window and set it alight. It exploded immediately and it appears that the suspect collapsed and was thrown to the ground. He was carried away by two other individuals. The police are investigating this case of arson. 

Given that we had a night without violence on Wednesday, Wits’ management was considering lifting the conditions under which individuals could move on campus after 10pm. However, given this incident of arson and other threats of violence, we cannot remove the restrictions entirely. We will continue to relax the conditions progressively as the situation stabilises whilst continuing to open up more spaces for academic study after 10pm for those committed to their studies. 

Communication 

Please note that the information provided via these daily updates intends to provide a macro overview of developments across the University, and does not reflect the individual experiences of people on the ground. It is also based on the information that we have at the time of sending the email. 

Impact of protests on Wits community 

We are fully aware that many students and staff members have been affected differently by the recent protests. We apologise to every member of the Wits community who is adversely affected. At the same time, please understand that we are doing all that we can under very trying conditions to complete the 2016 academic programme. We cannot guarantee that it will run 100 percent at the moment, but we are doing all that we can to save the academic year. 

The alternative is to shut down the University which will impact adversely on the lives of 36 000 students, thousands of staff members and the 7 000 first years that we need to welcome in 2017. While there are some who would like to see the 2016 academic programme sacrificed, we cannot allow this to happen. We will continue to fulfil our mandate, to respect the wishes of the majority who want to complete the year and we will continue to persevere until the year is complete. 

Let us focus on completing the 2016 academic year and our examinations.

Lectures are underway

- Wits University

Update from Senior Executive Team on University opening (09:00):

Thank you to all of you who have come onto campus this morning. 

We are particularly appreciative that you are working with us to win back the campus. 

All lectures are underway at the moment with no reported disruptions of the academic programme. We are watching events tightly and if any University rules are broken or the rights of others are infringed, the University will hold those responsible immediately accountable. 

The interdict remains in place and the University will enforce it if required. 

A group of students wearing balaclavas were asked to disperse this morning. They refused to do so and the police used stun grenades to disperse them. We have received reports that two students have been arrested this morning for violating a court order. Notices of suspension for these students are being prepared. 

We have also been alerted that some staff have been requested to form a human chain between police and students. Staff should not engage in such activities as this would be abetting protest and would undermine our attempts to get the academic programme back on track. 

Police have also been asked to ensure that any group be dispersed before it becomes large enough to constitute a problem.

There may be some inconvenience throughout the day. We appeal to you to work with us as we try to get the academic programme back on track today. 

Remember to report any incidents to (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666. The line is being properly manned today and will respond to all calls immediately.

Stay informed via wits.ac.za; on Twitter: @WitsUniversity and @Wits_News; and on Facebook: @WitsUniversity.

Classes continue today

- Wits University

Update from the Senior Executive Team (10:30):

Academic Programme 

All classes continue today across all campuses. 

Overnight Incidents 

Three petrol bombs were found in a backpack near the Raikes Gate on the Wits West Campus in the early hours of this morning. A security officer made the discovery and alerted the police who removed them. 

Two other petrol bombs were found outside the John Moffet Building late last night. It appears as if another petrol bomb was thrown through a window to the basement of the building, which caused a fire. Security officers managed to extinguish the fire quickly. 

Eggs were thrown in at the Albert Wessels front entrance at the Wits Business School this morning. Taps were left open in Central Block bathrooms overnight, which led to flooding in the area. All areas have been cleaned. 

Offensive graffiti has reappeared in various Wits spaces and is being cleaned. 

Intimidation and misinformation 

We are aware that many students and staff are being intimidated by protesting students. This intimidation takes various forms – there are reports of intimidation of students in residences as well as those who attend classes. We remind all students and staff, that while protesting students have a right to demonstrate, others have a right to learn and work. 

There are students who are circulating threatening voice notes and WhatsApp messages to instil fear in the Wits community. These notes and messages have been passed on to the police and they are investigating it. 

There is much misinformation being spread through social media and we urge students to obtain their information from official Wits channels – www.wits.ac.za, www.facebook.com/witsuniversity, @Wits_News and @WitsUniversity. 

Please report any intimidation to Campus Control on (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666 or to the Wits Legal Office. 

Clarification 

Contrary to the information spread on social media yesterday, the University did not lock any students into any residence. Security did close one pedestrian turnstile when disruptions occurred on the Parktown Campus yesterday. Students were able to leave via the front gate. 

Stay away from areas of conflict 

We appeal to all students and staff to stay away from areas in which conflict may occur. If incidents occur, move away from the area for your own safety.

Reports of intimidation to sign a petition

- Wits University

Statement from the Senior Executive Team (17:00):

Reports of intimidation to sign a petition 

It has come to the attention of management that some students are being intimidated into signing a petition indicating that as a result of trauma experienced during the recent protests, they want examinations to be postponed. These incidents of intimidation seem to be prevalent in certain residences. We remind students that intimidation is a serious offence and should be reported immediately. If you are intimidated, please speak to your respective warden or contact the Office of the Dean of Students. You can also report incidents or people who are intimidating you by calling Campus Control on (011) 717-4444 or calling the anonymous hotline on 072 256 7951.  

Online application for deferred examinations 

We remind students that if you feel traumatised and for good reason cannot sit for the current examinations, you can apply to write deferred examinations. Students can apply online for deferred examinations via the Wits Student Self-Service system. Log in to the Wits Student Portal via https://self-service.wits.ac.za then navigate to the Main Menu > Self-Service > Wits Student Self Service > Application for Deferred Exam. Please remember that you only have three days from the date of the original examination to apply for a deferred examination. 

Examination procedures 

While we strongly discourage students from bringing bags onto campus when writing examinations, we will accommodate bags outside the venue if required. Please ensure that all bags are clearly labelled so that they can easily be identified. Toiletry bags will also be accommodated. Female officers will also be on hand to assist with security checks.

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

Offensive graffiti on campus

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement at 14:30:

It has come to our attention that a small group of students are deliberately spraying offensive graffiti on walls on Wits’ campuses and on T-shirts. The offensive graffiti has been removed from our campus walls.     

The group claims to be mobilising on behalf of an individual who will apparently be appearing before the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Wednesday for wearing a T-shirt that had the words “Fuck White People” painted on the back.  We are not sure who laid the complaint with the SAHRC. 

However, the individual wearing the T-shirt has been associated with a number of illegal activities on Wits’ campuses in recent weeks, which we are investigating, in line with the University’s policies and procedures. 

Management’s response to the offensive messages 

As the Senior Executive Team of Wits University, we strongly condemn the offensive messages being propagated and we deeply regret the insult that it may cause to members of our community. 

We have deliberated on the matter, and while we do not agree with the actions of these students, we have been advised that legally, the statements may not be a violation of our country’s Constitution, which provides for freedom of expression, unless it constitutes incitement to cause harm. In this instance, while the messages are certainly hurtful, we have been advised that they may not directly incite harm. 

The University does not condone the actions of these students, whose behaviour runs contrary to the values of tolerance and respect that we expect from members of the Wits community and we strongly urge them to desist from this offensive and hurtful behaviour. 

Management’s response to the statement ‘Blacks can’t be racists’ 

The protesting group makes the case that black people cannot be racists. Their argument is based on the fact that the structure and distribution of power in our society and the world is decidedly in favour of white people. 

There is a serious methodological and intellectual problem with this argument. 

First, it makes the assumption that power is always homogenously constructed. In fact, power is always a relational concept displayed in any actions between individuals, even if both are of the same race. It is precisely because of this unequal power relationship that we cannot extrapolate from a structural relationship of power in society and the world, and use it unthinkingly to describe the interactions between any two individuals. 

We are thus of the view that it is indeed possible for people to act in racially offensive ways against white persons. 

Nevertheless, even if there was credence to this argument, it is the responsibility of every member of this University to be courteous to, and respectful of one another, even when we have different views. The statements by the protesting group may or may not be racist, they may not be unlawful, but they are certainly hurtful and offensive to others. 

There is no use in engaging in esoteric debates that do not obviate from the fact that the statements are offensive and hurtful and that they fundamentally violate and undermine the core values of Wits University. 

Should a member of our University community behave in this regard? We cannot deal with this using security measures. What is required is a social convention, through which members of the Wits community rise and say #NotInOurName. 

Offensive graffiti stealing from the poor 

Some of these students may be able to obtain temporary satisfaction as a result of wearing offensive T-shirts or spraying graffiti on our walls. We are forced to clean this offensive graffiti at a huge cost to the University. These are funds which could have been spent on financial aid. This is the tragedy – people who are claiming to act on behalf of the poor are behaving in ways that may redirect resources away from the poor. The University will take action against anyone caught defacing University property, or spraying graffiti on walls not designated for this purpose. 

Conclusion 

We understand that there are some who would like to manipulate the current political climate and the debates around race in society to deliberately provoke and offend others to suit their own agendas. We need to rise above the cheap politicking and rather use this opportunity to effect meaningful transformation in the higher education sector and society. We can only do so if we all act in ways that are respectful and tolerant of one another.

Work with me to try to save the 2016 academic year - Habib

- Professor Adam Habib

Letter from Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal:

“I write to you to apologise for the disruptions that unfolded on our Braamfontein campus today. You trusted our judgment and reported for duty, and we let you down. I understand that many staff members are disappointed and angry – you were intimidated, threatened and forced to leave your offices when all you did was to come to work, in the hope of preparing to educate future generations. 

Following a meeting of about 500 students on campus today, the protesting students broke into splinter groups and forced some staff to leave offices and laboratories. Wits’ security was able to contain the large group, but not the smaller groups that moved through buildings. 

We made the decision to open today taking into account several factors, including the importance of universities and the immense consequences of not finishing the academic year. In addition, the Wits poll indicated that 77% of students who responded, wanted to return to class. Our job is to protect the rights of everyone, including the students and staff who want to learn and work. The protesters acknowledge that access to quality higher education for the poor and what is referred to as the missing middle is a national problem that cannot be resolved by any single institution.  

Our initial approach was to obtain a negotiated settlement with students and over the weekend we met with a range of student leaders, political parties and individuals. Following discussions, we committed to working with students in the fight for free education for the poor and missing middle, through holding a General Assembly, engaging in public demonstrations, building on Wits’ submission to the Heher Commission and taking the issue to relevant stakeholders at the national level. We agreed to deploy a team of academics and others to develop proposals to realise this goal. Further, we agreed to a phased opening of the University after discussions with some student leaders. 

Over the weekend, students and staff expressed great concern about learning in a ‘securitised’ environment with police guarding lecture halls. It is for this reason that we scaled down our security for today and requested the police to move to the campus perimeter. However, given the harassment of some staff today, I am left with no choice but to open tomorrow with a full security contingent throughout our campuses. We will have security and police services deployed on all campuses and in all buildings. No mass meetings will be allowed in Solomon Mahlangu House. Anyone caught contravening any University rule or court interdict, or infringing on the rights of others, will immediately be held accountable for their actions, and may face criminal charges. I have personally received reassurances from the police, from private security and Campus Control that they are on board to secure the campus and protect the lives of students and staff who want to learn and work. 

But I cannot do this alone. I need every staff member and every student to help me take back our campus as the academic programme opens tomorrow. It is not ideal to attend classes with police at the doors of learning, but I am left with no choice. 

If we do not get this right tomorrow, we have no choice but to close the University, which will compromise the 2016 academic programme and the lives of all 37 000 students. It means that all students will have to move out of residences before the end of the week. It means that there will be fewer teachers, doctors, lawyers and accountants in the workplace. It means that students on financial aid, scholarships and bursaries may lose their funding. It means that Wits will not be able to enrol first years in January – we have 75 000 applications for 2017 already. 

The consequences of a shutdown are far-reaching and such a decision should be one of last resort. I therefore plead with you to work with me once more to try to save the 2016 academic year, and the future of this great University.”

Disruptions on education campus

- Wits University

The situation is contained and protesters have dispersed.

Dear Colleagues

We experienced some disruptions on the Wits Education Campus today. We managed to contain the situation this morning but a group of students continued to protest on the campus this afternoon. They have since dispersed and the campus is secure.

We deployed additional security to guard lecture theatres and requested the police to arrest individuals who were disrupting lectures. The University is in discussion with the police tonight to develop comprehensive security plans for all campuses.

Thank you

Senior Executive Team
7 April 2016
18:00

Clarity on “top up allowance” that applies to workers of service providers

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team statement on Insourcing Task Team (ITT).

It has come to our attention that some members of the Wits community are deliberately inciting the workers of service providers on our campuses to protest, despite the issue of insourcing being prioritised by the Insourcing Task Team (ITT).

There are also allegations that members of the ITT are involved in protest action on our campuses. This is contrary to the agreement signed between management, workers and students, and the matter is being raised with the chairperson of the ITT, Advocate Dali Mpofu.

We request all members of the University community to immediately desist from interfering in these processes as it jeopardises the progress made by the Insourcing Task Team and management.

'Top-up' allowance

As outlined previously, the University agreed to pay a ‘top-up’ of the basic monthly salary to the workers of service providers whose gross salary is below R4500. The allowance is paid in the form of a Client Allowance to service providers who then pass this payment on to their employees. The allowance is the difference between the workers total remuneration before statutory deductions and the amount of R4500. The minimum total remuneration before statutory deductions for workers who qualify will thus be R4500 per month for full-time employees of service providers and a proportional amount for those full-time employees whose hours of work are less than then normal full-time hours. 

Any special allowances, bonuses and other benefits do not form part of the calculation of the basic monthly salary. Workers on paid leave still benefit from this ‘top-up’, for example, maternity leave.

The following workers in the employ of service providers qualify for the allowance: Security (Fidelity Security Services, Quemic, Urban Genesis); Grounds (Servest (Pty) Ltd), Cleaning (Ukweza Cleaning, Impact Cleaning); Dining hall catering (Royal Mnandi, Ukweza Catering); Waste Management (Oricol) and the Intercampus Bus Service (Phola Coaches). The allowance does not apply to workers that work for retail and service enterprises that operate on the university campus who are in an arms-length commercial relationship with the University. 

This dispensation is effective from 1 January 2016 and applies to workers in the employ of the service providers on that day. 

This agreement was approved by the Insourcing Task Team which includes all stakeholder representatives including management, students and workers.

Given the complexity of the issues there will inevitably be queries, misunderstandings and disputes about which workers qualify and which do not. Management is committed to resolving these in a systematic manner. A mechanism has been set up to resolve any disputes through the ITT. The underwriter to the agreement and the arbiter of the agreement if required, is Advocate Mojanku Gumbi.

Payment

Notwithstanding the short time period involved, the University has paid the allowances for the month of January.

Current contracts

All current contracts with service providers remain in effect. 

Conclusion

Wits’ management is working with the Insourcing Task Team on a sustainable model for insourcing. We cannot afford to jeopardise this process and in terms of our agreement, we will hold people accountable if they continue to incite disruption on our campuses.

Share

Giving to Wits

School of Public Health Building

Whether you invest in a promising young student, or contribute towards vital research or new buildings and facilities – giving to Wits brings great personal satisfaction and lasting results you can be proud of for years to come.

Give to Wits