Watch: Students, security guards throw rocks at each other as Wits protest intensifies
Nehawu joined the students' protest on Friday, with the union demanding wage increases for Wits University's workers.
Wits students throw rocks at security guards during protests on the university’s campus on 3 March 2023. Photo: The Citizen/Reitumetse Makwea
Tensions at the University of the Witwatersrand continued to boil over on Friday as the protesting students and outsourced security officers threw rocks at each other.
At least two students were taken by ambulance for medical attention as the protest entered its third day.
While the majority of the protests outside the university campus were peaceful, scuffles broke out during a standoff with security guards who prevented them from entering the Great Hall. This led to the guards and students throwing rocks at each other, with the media and some staff members being in the firing line.
Watch: Rocks thrown during Wits student protest
Following a march down the streets of Braamfontein, the protesting students forced their way onto the Wits University campus after marching down the streets of Braamfontein. On the campus, they were joined by members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).
Nehawu joined the protest to demand a 10% wage increase for the university’s workers.
Watch: Nehawu demands increase in salaries for university’s workers
According to the Wits student representative council (SRC), the protest is against historic debt preventing students from registering, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) residence cap of R45 000, and rules on registering with the Hardship Fund, among other things.
“They are very arrogant, and it doesn’t have to be like that,” SRC president Aphiwe Mnyamana said as he addressed the media.
“We have been trying to negotiate in good faith, but now we are prepared to meet them pound for pound with arrogance. The conclusion to this is that all students must register, or Wits must absolve their debt.”
The SRC has the following demands:
- All students owing R150 000 or less should be allowed to register for the 2023 academic year.
- The National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s R45 000 cap for residences should be scrapped immediately.
- All students who are beneficiaries of the Hardship Fund should be allowed to register and not pay the residual amount.
- The R10 000 upfront fee to secure residence placement should be waived, and students should be allowed to move in.
- The university must allocate an additional R30 million towards an accommodation fund to secure more beds for homeless students.
Trinity Makola, chairperson of the Bheki Mkhize Nehawu branch at Wits, urged students not to end the protests until their demands and those of workers are met.
“We’re here as parents because we can see the injustices that this university is doing to our children, their students,” he noted.
“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 that students are crying, they have money to pay bouncers to beat up the very same students.”
The students have vowed to continue their protest and disrupt classes until their demands are met.