Protesting students at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) on Wednesday called vice-chancellor Adam Habib a “sinner” that should not be allowed at the “holy premises” of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein, saying that he had jailed one of their leaders Mcebo Dlamini.
This comes after eminent individuals, including the former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and founding general secretary of Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) Jay Naidoo, were set to meet with the students in a bid to strike a peace accord at the troubled institution.
The peace accord, called by Wits academics, was set as a mass meeting at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church to launch dialogue for unity and coalition building to fund and save all public universities in South Africa.
But when students entered the church, they discovered that Habib was among those with whom they would be interacting. Habib’s presence prompted a commotion among the students gathered inside the church, with some opting to leave and emotions running high.
They chanted “Habib Must Fall” and sang a vernacular song, “I hate Habib”.
One of the student leaders, Busisiswe Seabe, said Habib had all along ignored students pleas to remove police officers on campus, but was surfacing at a peace accord meeting without their invitation.
“We will not be ambushed by Habib at our own meeting. Habib is a sinner and should not be at the church’s grounds,” Seabe said.
“His first line of march must be to Sun City [Johannesburg Correctional Services Centre] to release Mcebo. We will not allow him to speak, he and management must leave.”
Dlamini, a former Wits Student Representative Council president and #FeesMustFall leader, was arrested at his Wits residence in the early hours on Sunday.
He was denied bail at the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday and faces charges of public violence, theft, malicious damage to property and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Habib had to leave the church quietly via a backdoor.
Meanwhile, students urged the clergy to call of the meeting and move it to a bigger venue as the church could not accommodate everybody.
After consultation with Wits SRC secretary general Fasiha Hassan the clergy agreed to move the meeting though reluctant at first fearing the responsibility should any violence occur.
“This meeting is very important but the venue is too small. All we are asking for is for venue change. We have asked for the meeting to be moved to Solomon Mahlangu House. We can guarantee the safety of everyone,” Hassan said.
Among the eminent persons who were meeting the students were Father Graham Pugin, executive director of Section27 Mark Heywood, deputy chairperson of the Electoral Commission of South Africa Terry Tselane, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation Sello Hatang, former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, and former Speaker of Parliament Max Sisulu.
The meeting progressed at Solomon Mahlangu House.
– African News Agency (ANA)
Habib ‘disappointed’ at being booted from peace meeting
University of Witwatersrand (Wits) Vice Chancellor Adam Habib on Wednesday expressed his disappointment after he was chased away from a peace accord meeting at a church in Braamfontein, Johannesburg by angry students.
Habib said he and his management team had been invited to the meeting by the Academic Staff Association of Wits University, the Holy Trinity Church and religious leaders.
“We are disappointed that people felt that we should exit the peace meeting even after we had been invited to attend it,” Habib said in a statement.
“We remain committed to working with students and student leaders in trying to find solutions to 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.”
The peace accord meeting was moved from the Holy Trinity Church to Solomon Mahlangu House on campus as the church was too small to accommodate the group of students.
Students shouted at Habib requesting him to leave after realising that he was part of the meeting. They called him a “sinner” and that he should release their leader, former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini before he could speak to them.
Habib belonged in jail and not in church, the students shouted. Habib and his team then left the church.
Dlamini was refused bail on Wednesday by the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court. He faced five charges that included theft, damage to property and public violence.
Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, Jay Naidoo and Holy Trinity Church’s Father Graham Pugin were scheduled to address the meeting.
Habib said the university remained committed to completing the 2016 academic year while at the same time trying to address higher education funding.
“We will continue to protect the University community to ensure that staff, students and our infrastructure are safe and that the academic programme continues,” he said.
– African News Agency (ANA)
Possible #FeesMustFall march in Tshwane tomorrow
The Tshwane Metro Police on Wednesday warmed Pretoria residents of a possible march by at least 3 000 students of the #FeesMustFall movement tomorrow in the capital city of Pretoria.
TMPD spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba most street in the Pretoria city central will be greatly affected.
“Motorist and members of the public who will be travelling to the CBD tomorrow are advised to take extra precautionary measures,” Mhamba said.
A group of protesters pelted vehicles with stones overnight in Braamfontein, Gauteng police said on Wednesday.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Sally de Beer said the incident happened after University of Witwatersrand held a peaceful meeting on campus.
“Operational SAPS members have reported that after a peaceful gathering on the Wits campus from 10pm onwards, police were alerted to a small group throwing stones at vehicles in Jorrisen and De Korte Streets, Braamfontein,” De Beer said.
“Over the course of two hours, the individuals would stone vehicles and then run into buildings as police approached. They then stoned the police members from buildings.”
Metro police assisted the SAPS then and cordoned off the area so that vehicles would not enter. De Beers said there were no reports of injuries.
“They dispersed by 2am probably because of the rain and made their way back to their residences. The SAPS members report that they did not take action as the small groups ran and hid every time they approached. We are not aware of any damages, but vehicle and shop owners should report possible damages to Hillbrow Police Station.”
Running battles between police and Fees Must Fall protesters have been ongoing in the past few weeks as hundreds of protesting university students abandoned classes to demand free higher education.
On Monday, acting police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane said 567 people have been arrested during the student protests in 265 cases over the last eight months. The charges included violence, intimidation and malicious damage to property.
A mass meeting on dialogue on funding by Wits students will take place late Wednesday at the Holy Trinity church near the campus. Former public protector Thuli Madonsela, Jay Naidoo and church leader Father Graham Pugin will speak at the meeting.
Students show support for arrested Mcebo Dlamini
Tears and lowered heads of students marked the sombre mood outside the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court after Wits University Fees Must Fall leader Mcebo Dlamini, in police custody since last week, was denied bail.
Hundreds of students and workers stood outside the court preparing to march back to the institution’s main campus, where five police Nyalas, several police vehicles and private security were standing by.
There was heavy police presence outside the court, where student leaders were addressing the crowd.
One of them, Vuyani Pambo, said that the students’ legal team would be challenging the bail denial and that the protest action and demand for free education would continue.
A small group of students was already gathered at the nearby Catholic church.
Student leader Mcebo Dlamini denied bail
Student leader and former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini has been denied bail by the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
This despite support shown by hundreds of Wits University workers, mostly cleaners, who marched to the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court in support of the Fees Must Fall leader.
Dlamini was arrested at a Wits residence last week on charges related to the ongoing protest action he lead at the institution over the past month.
It is alleged that, among other things, he assaulted a police officer, and yesterday evidence was brought to court alleging that he threw a rock at a police officer and wore riot gear.
Students and workers were calling for his release and accused police and the government of targeting student leaders nationwide in a bid to quell protest action at more than 20 institutions of higher learning.