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WATCH: ‘Until they hear us, there is a complete shutdown of the university,’ say Wits students

Students at the University of the Witwatersrand claim the university and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) are antagonising them with financial exclusions, a R10 000 upfront waiver and R45 000 cap for residence.

In demonstrations yesterday at the university, tensions ran high as the protest turned violent, with both students and security hurling rocks back and forth.

The student protesters said government had failed to keep the promise of free education which former president Jacob Zuma made, or even meet them halfway.

R150K debt cap ‘ridiculous’

According to a student who did not want to be named due to fear of victimisation, the university’s tuition fee plus residence on an average was more than R200 000.

“So the R150 000 debt cap is ridiculous, it’s working against the black student. This is racial exclusion, because why have they failed to communicate with Nsfas and say ‘look this is what we demand from the students and this is what you’re offering’, which doesn’t even begin to cover our tuition and residence,” she said.

Watch: Students, security guards throw rocks at each other as Wits protest intensifies

She said the protest was not against Wits.

“They should actually come to the streets with us and say in fact we can’t accept this on a yearly basis. The academic calendar cannot continue to suffer because of incompetency.

“Higher education is the enemy, if they hear our cries and join students in this fight then we can ensure people in positions of power do what they are supposed to do.”

Watch: Rocks thrown during Wit protest

Wits student representative council president Aphiwe Mnyamana urged students not to give in and also vowed to continue the protest until students have registered.

“Nothing on this campus will proceed as normal because nothing on this campus is normal,” he said.

“There are two things now. Until students’ and workers’ demands are met, the university will not continue with its operations.

“Until they hear us, there is a complete shutdown of the university.”

Nehawu to Wits students: ‘Do not despair’

The protesting students were joined by members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).

Trinity Makola, chair of the Nehawu Wits branch, also called on students not to back down.

“We, as Nehawu, have assured you that we’re with you. We’ve already posted the certificate to protest and as soon as we get the certificate to protect our members because we cannot be reckless, we will definitely shut down this university,” Makola said.

WATCH: 'Until they hear us, there is a complete shutdown of the university,' say Wits students
Wits University students march to the campus in Johannesburg, 3 March 2023l. students are protesting for lack of support from the university for unhoused students and those with outstanding fees. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

“Do not despair … we know your demands and we’ve already said they are valid. So you can trust us, nothing will happen to you.

“We’re here as parents because we can see the injustices this university is doing to our children, their students.”

ALSO READ: Wits students clash with police and guards as protest continues

“We are here to show you our support, because every time we get into negotiations, the university claims they do not have money. But, now, students are crying they have money to pay bouncers to beat up the very same students.”

Lectures proceeding

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said despite the chaos, lectures were proceeding. She added that the situation had calmed down and Campus Protection Services was getting trespassers off the campus.

“They came armed with water bottles, rocks and teargas, which they threw at private security officers,” Patel said.

“Three security officers were hurt and have been taken to the campus health centre. The exchange continued for about 20 minutes outside the Great Hall before the crowd dispersed. The entrances have been closed and staff and students will be allowed to leave. No-one is currently being allowed onto our campuses.”

ALSO READ: Wits addresses student protestors’ demands on funding for 2023

Patel also noted that the university has already illustrated its commitment “to trying to support our students as far as possible and to address many of the systemic national issues.

“We have showed restraint in the face of student protests but condemn the acts of intimidation and the destruction of property.”

from The Citizen https://www.citizen.co.za/news/until-they-hear-us-complete-shutdown-wits-students/

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