STANDOFF:  Students from Wits University in Johannesburg demonstrate, as the #FeesMustFall protests resume. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
STANDOFF: Students from Wits University in Johannesburg demonstrate, as the #FeesMustFall protests resume. Picture: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

DESPITE reports of arrests and unrest on Tuesday‚ the University of the Witwatersrand insisted its campuses remained open.

Wits University ?@WitsUniversity tweeted: "Hi @WitsUniversity students and staff‚ the academic programme and university activities continue this morning. All gates open."

It followed this up with: "Security has been increased significantly and the police are assisting in maintaining law and order."

Students responded angrily to management’s use of police to quell protests.

The SRC said 31 students had been arrested on Tuesday morning in an attempt by university management to derail the movement.

“Today‚ we face violence and police brutality of the worst kind,” it said.

“We have contacted legal assistance who will be fighting this unconstitutional court interdict. We will not be deterred by police brutality and this blatant attempt to clamp down on the student voice.”

Through a court order‚ made final in April‚ the university has interdicted students from occupying university buildings or disrupting lectures and tutorials.

Students at the Johannesburg campus started protesting on Monday in an attempt to shut operations down‚ following Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement on 2017 fee increases.

Nzimande said on Monday that universities should set their own fee policies but should not increase fees for 2017 by more than 8%.

Other campuses

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) students blocked the entrances to the South and North campuses on Tuesday morning.

NMMU students‚ who met late on Monday‚ reconvened on Tuesday and marched along University Way towards campus residences‚ where they mobilised more students to join them.

Students are expected to be addressed by NMMU acting vice-chancellor Dr Sibongile Muthwa on Tuesday afternoon.

University of Pretoria students held protests on Monday, when they cancelled classes and closed down the library, but vowed to return to class on Tuesday.

Some described Monday’s shutdown as a party political stunt, with the South African Students Congress (Sasco) accusing the EFF on campus of trying to postpone student leadership elections.

Wits students also raised the problem of party politics, saying on Monday that political T-shirts were dividing them, and calling on students to refrain from wearing them.

Universities respond

Universities welcomed Nzimande’s announcement. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) called it encouraging, and said it meant about 75% of UJ students would have a 0% fee increase in 2017.

Rhodes University said in a statement: “We particularly welcome government’s commitment to assist students who come from poor and working-class families and those who come from mid-level income families.…

“Our council will consider the minister’s recommendations in the preparation and approval of the university budget for 2017.”

TMG Digital