An injured student is attended to by her schoolmates after clashes with security at University of the Witwatersrand on Tuesday, as countrywide protests demanding free tertiary education entered a third week.  Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO
An injured student is attended to by her schoolmates after clashes with security at University of the Witwatersrand on Tuesday, as countrywide protests demanding free tertiary education entered a third week. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

ALL activities at the University of the Witwatersrand have been suspended for the rest of the week.

At the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), students were warned to be prepared for “mass destruction” at the Howard campus on Wednesday and not to expect to finish their degrees this year. But the situation was calm on Wednesday morning, with about 30 police and private security personnel setting up outside the law library.

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The Wits senior executive team said late on Tuesday that it was “identifying” those “who perpetrated acts of violence on our campus today” and vowed to “take action in line with the university’s rules and the law”.

The university said it had made the decision after “considering the safety of our staff and students“.

“Academics‚ professional‚ administrative and support staff and students need not come onto Wits’ campuses tomorrow‚” a statement said.

“However‚ residences and dining halls should operate as usual and staff in these areas should report for duty.”

The Wits council’s executive committee would meet on Wednesday, “and the university will communicate further thereafter”.

The university tried to operate as usual on Tuesday‚ despite an expected resumption of the protests that broke out on Monday following Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement on fee increases for 2017.

But clashes between students and police and security personnel ensued‚ with a number of arrests and injuries reported.

Some calm returned on Tuesday afternoon after students were allowed to gather at Solomon Mahlangu House to debate a way forward.

There was no concrete agreement among students on when to march to the JSE to present their demands for more private sector funding of higher education.

Others argued they should wait for the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to resume classes after a week of recess.

“We should wait until Monday for UJ to resume before we march to the JSE‚” said a student.

But the majority felt the march should be staged on Wednesday.

Despite a huge police presence‚ students still managed to disrupt some classes.

But the situation was calmer than earlier, when students pelted private security staff who were trying to prevent them from entering Solomon Mahlangu House.

Members of the media were prevented from filming deliberations inside Solomon Mahlangu House.

Destruction at UKZN

In one of several voice-notes circulating on social media‚ said to be that of student leaders after a late night meeting on Tuesday‚ a female student reported back that a strike was planned from 8am on Wednesday.

“Concession and conclusion is that we’re taking to the streets tomorrow‚ Howard College. We’re shutting down campus‚ from 8am until however long it takes.

“The strike is carrying on and if I were you‚ unless you want to be part of the strike‚ I wouldn’t come to campus because tomorrow it’s basically mass destruction. So you come at your own risk or you don’t come at all.”

In the voice-note‚ she tells a student called Khomotso: “In terms of finishing your degree it’s not looking good at all.”

The meeting on Tuesday night came after the university released new dates for exams. According to the schedule‚ lectures will end on November 25‚ and exams will start on December 1 and end on December 15.

Students expressed concern about the new dates on social media.

Classes were suspended at various universities on Tuesday. The University of Cape Town (UCT)‚ the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan University (NMMU) and the University of the Free State (UFS) suspended classes for the day as protests continued on their campuses.

Tshwane University of Technology closed two of its campus as well.

The University of Fort Hare announced that most of its students would not have to pay for fee increases for 2017 as “almost 100%” of its students fell within the range that qualifies for the announced government subsidies.

In his announcement on Monday‚ Nzimande said the government would cover the gap between the 2015 fees and adjusted 2017 fee at the relevant institutions for students from households with an income of up to R600,000 a year, and for those who are funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).