Clashes break out as classes are brought to a halt at Wits

African News Agency (ANA)

Clashes break out as classes are brought to a halt at Wits
Wits #FeesMustFall students are defying police instructions and have broken the "No go" tape. Stun grenades and tear gas fired by police to move the students back. Photo: CICA

Protesting students at University of Witswatesrand (Wits) were engaged in running battles with public order police at the main campus in Braamfontein on Tuesday, this after bringing the resumption of classes to an abrupt halt earlier in the morning.

At least two students were arrested in the morning amid skirmishes as police resorted to firing stun grenades to disperse protesting students.

Police accused students of violating a court order that prohibited them from gathering in groups of more than 15 people.

One of the arrested was Busisiwe Seabe, a member of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC), and one of the #FeesMustFall activists and protest leaders at Wits.

Seabe told journalists from the back of the police van that she was arrested for “asking too many questions”.

“I was asking the police about the details of the arrested student so that we could alert his family and relatives. They just said I should stop asking questions…”

Wits University was closed last week following violent protests by students who are demanding free tertiary education.

On Friday, 77 percent of students at Wits voted “YES” in an online poll on whether or not to resume lectures on Tuesday this week. However, only 45 percent of the student population responded to the poll.

But protesting students were seen on Tuesday marching to different lecture halls and removing those who were inside, while also calling for workers such as cleaners to down tools.

EFF chairperson, advocate Dali Mpofu, addressed Wits students after the disruptions of classes, saying their call for free education was attainable.

“I am here not wearing any political hat. We are here as concerned citizens, and parents. We call anybody who is listening, whether you’re a former student or a parent, we are calling anybody who will listen to come here and not rely on the media,” Mpofu said.

“This is your struggle, no one must be allowed to take it over. We will not judge you. If the police want to shoot our children then they must shoot us first.”

Also in attendance to support students were Wits lecturer Pumla Gqola and Afro-pop singer Siphiwe Dana, as well as other academic staff members.

Former Wits SRC president, Mcebo Dlamini, swore that students would not relent in their demands for free education, saying that there was no way Wits could operate on Tuesday until students concerns were heard.

“Comrades, we are already moving on an interdict to prevent the university from shutting down residences. The struggle continues. This is going to be a complete shutdown,” Dlamini said.

One Wits student asked why vice-chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, had manage to address the media but not the students.

“They say we must come to school and we come, but they are shooting us. Habib needs to be a father and come address us. We need honesty, we need clearance, not police coming to shoot us,” she said.

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SOURCEAfrican News Agency (ANA)