Thousands of Wits University students protesting for free education are expected to return to the Braamfontein campus today in their continued bid to keep the institution shut.
ER24 paramedics confirmed yesterday that five patients were sent to hospital after several students and journalists were hit by rubber bullets, including a student who took a bullet to the head.
As academics and workers joined the student protest, university management issued a warning to nonprotesting staff to remain inside the buildings as tensions rose between the thousands of protesting students and a large contingent of riot police and Fidelity security personnel.
Two students were arrested during the conflict, including one of the #FeesMustFall leaders Busisiwe Seabe. Both were later released after about a thousand students marched to Hillbrow with EFF leader Dali Mpofu to demand their release.
Several rounds of stun grenades and rubber bullets were fired by police, during the day, first when students were marching from the West Campus and again when they gathered outside the hall.
Mpofu, IEC deputy chair Terry Tselane and SRC members had a planned meeting with Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib in a bid to negotiate with the university to tone down the security and police presence, as well as to ask for the academic programming to be extended.
Addressing the crowd, former SRC president Mcebo Dlamini complained that police were being violent towards them. “You all saw how we were marching peacefully. We were not violent.”
The university opened its doors on Monday after a two-week shutdown due to the #FeesMustFall protest. But the masses of students who showed up were adamant that the institution would remain shut down until government implemented free education.
Meanwhile, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said her office sympathised with students who had continued to protest for free education and a national shut down of universities across the country this past week. Speaking at her office in Pretoria ahead of briefing the media on her finalised reports, Madonsela said she hoped a solution would be found to continue learning without hindrance.
“We believe there is social injustice in the manner which the gates of learning opened to our children in our institutions of higher learning and that this needs us to work together to find a solution. As we are all aware, this is still a difficult issue of social justice regarding access to education and as the Public Protector South Africa, we sympathise with the students.”
She said Public Protector’s CEO Louisa Zondo hosted a dialogue last Friday to find possible answers for free higher education. “Our office remains open to help parties to find common ground. We would like to see violence ending and the matter being dealt with through dialogue,” she told the media.
Thousands of Wits University students continued with their demand for free education outside the Great Hall yesterday with heavy police on standby.