/ 4 October 2016

​Wits university management agrees to mediated negotiations with students, campus to reopen on Monday

Students at Wits University are protesting to express their dissatisfaction with university management.
Students at Wits University are protesting to express their dissatisfaction with university management.

On Tuesday night, after four hours of negotiations, Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib and university management reached an agreement on student protests and the campus shutdown. 

Earlier, the university had announced it would re-open on Wednesday, despite violence from police against student protesters that had ripped through the university on Tuesday.

But after a meeting with previous SRC leaders, Advocate Dali Mpofu – who represented the student protesters – as well as church leaders and other stakeholders, the university agreed to halt the campus programme for the rest of the week and re-open on Monday.

“We have made this concession because we do not want the scenes that played out on our university campuses today to be repeated. Such scenes put our students and staff on edge and do not enable a full resumption of the academic programme. If a negotiated outcome can achieve this end, then we will be all the stronger as a university community. The student constituency is as committed as we are to salvaging the 2016 academic year,” the university said in a statement.

The students have demanded that a student assembly be held to discuss the issue of fees and university shutdowns. The call was made after Wits announced it would poll the university community on whether student protests and the suspension of the academic programme should continue. Students have said that an assembly would provide a more realistic platform for the members of the university community to share their views and engage with the university management.

In the agreement reached, the university says that it will hold a general assembly on Friday that will be chaired by the chancellor of Wits. Another key point in the agreement is the shifting of police to the perimeter of the university.

“We have agreed to withdraw the police to the perimeter of the university’s campuses under the express commitment from all parties that there will be no violence or intimidation of students and staff,” the university said.

For the remainder of the week, the university and students will work with mediators to come to a consensus on how progress can be made in the current standoff between the student protesters and university management.