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Statement on campus disruptions

- Wits University

Senior Executive Team's statement on disruptions on campus on Thursday.

This morning we had a group of about 50 masked people who blocked the entrances to Yale Road North and South by placing rocks across the road. They are also attempting to disrupt lectures on the Braamfontein Campus West. With the aid of the police Yale Road has been cleared and the individuals who are attempting to disrupt lectures are being rounded up.

We understand that these individuals may be heeding the call of the South African Union of Students to shut down campuses and to target Wits first, so that other students and universities around the country can follow suit. 

We are of the view that these individuals do not have the interest of our students at heart. Their aim is to disrupt learning and to hold higher education institutions to ransom in order to advance their own political agenda. Their agenda has nothing to do with free education but is rather a deliberate attempt to destabilise our University.

We need to expose these persons who are today on our campus trying to disrupt our lectures and to shut down our campuses. We need to expose them, suspend them if they are students and have them arrested if they are threatening people, infringing on the rights of others to learn and work and damaging property. 

We cannot allow the futures of 32 000 registered students to be held to ransom by a small group of people trying to use the University for their own political gain.

We will thus go ahead with all University activities in the interests of the majority of students and in order to produce the high level skills needed to move our country forward.

The University is working with our own security, private security and the South African Police Services to keep the academic programme on track and all University services running. Forgive us if there are minor disruptions or delays – we cannot be held to ransom by a few selfish individuals.

We are still open to negotiations with internal constituencies like the Students’ Representative Council, provided that they engage in good faith and take responsibility for their actions. An SRC leader was almost suspended this week for disrupting classes, and the University will no longer hesitate to hold individuals who break the law accountable for their actions. The University is no longer in a position to chase goalposts that keep moving.

We have been working tirelessly for the last few years to address the challenges in higher education and we have made numerous concessions for students. Read the SRC Demands and Wits' Response to SRC.

This year we established a R13 million Wits Hardship Fund to help returning students to register. We have provided urgent accommodation and food to hundreds of students requiring assistance in recent weeks.

To date, the Wits Hardship Fund Evaluation Committee (which includes SRC representatives) has 

-          assisted 567 students in total in the last two weeks,

-          awarded funding to 220 students for urgent accommodation, and

-          assisted 347 returning students to register.

See the full update on the Hardship Fund

This is over and above the R1 billion in financial aid, scholarships and bursaries (including R100 million from the University’s Council Budget) that covers over 25 000 Wits students.

We thank you for your commitment to Wits during this difficult period. Please work with us to keep this institution up and running for the greater good of the Wits community.