Wits University has confirmed the suspension of two students, but says that it has nothing to do with recent protests over the non-registration of students with historical debt.
“Two students were suspended for disrupting an exam and tearing up exam papers on the 8th of March. Three others were charged for violating Covid-19 regulations in February.
“None of these charges or suspensions have anything to do with the protests that took place this week,” spokesperson Shirona Patel told News24 on Friday.
According to the institution, the two students – on the 9th of March- were issued with notices to appear before an inquiry held on the 10th of March, which the students did not attend.
“One of the students claimed that he did not receive these notices and he has been given another opportunity to appear before a University official today [Friday], to plead his case.
“The two students were suspended pending a disciplinary hearing which will take place in due course, in line with the University’s rules, policies and procedures,” Patel added.
In addition, three other students were charged for breaching Covid-19 regulations under Level 3 Lockdown for incidents that happened on 23 and 24 Feb 2021.
Wits University insists that none of these suspensions, or charges, relate to protests that happened this week. Patel further confirmed that these students stayed in residence on Thursday night.
Wits SRC rejects suspensions
Wits SRC Post Graduate Association Chair, Scelo Kubheka, however has accused the institution of using, “… apartheid tactics by silencing activism”, following the suspensions.
“Yesterday, the university suspended our treasurer general and our legal officer for being involved in a protest, so we reject those suspensions and charges on [sic] our comrades because our right to protest is protected by the constitution.
“The university says that they are open to protest but when we protest, they charge us – so what do they mean,” he said.
The university has been in the spotlight since peaceful protests led to the death of an innocent patient outside a clinic, allegedly at the hands of the police.
Over the past few days, Wits students have been protesting against the non-registration of students with historical debt.
On Wednesday morning, things took a tragic turn when 35-year-old Mthokozisi Ntumba was shot and killed, allegedly by police who were dispersing protesting students.
Ntumba was leaving a consultation with his doctor in Braamfontein, when he was shot and left laying on the ground gasping for air.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said that there was no “grain or explanation” for Ntumba’s death and that, “… someone just went crazy”.
Wits management says that it remains willing to engage with students to try to resolve these issues.