Management of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) confirmed on Saturday evening that the University would reopen on Monday to ensure the continuation of the academic programme.
On Friday university management postponed a scheduled general assembly on campus after mediation with the students failed to find agreement.
Regarding the scheduled opening on Monday, Wits management said in a statement released on Saturday evening: “This is for the benefit of all students – undergraduate and postgraduate, local and international, full-time and part-time and all staff – academic, professional, administrative and international.”
Protests have disrupted academic activities at universities across South Africa since Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced on September 19 that universities could increase fees for next year up to a cap of eight percent.
Wits management said that they were committed to completing the 2016 academic programme and to ensuring that examinations were written. The statement added that Senate had approved a revised calendar for 2016 and “developed contingency plans to ensure that examinations are written”.
“It is clear that everyone in the university community has the same goal – to work as a community to realise the goal of free, quality higher education.
“We firmly believe that this can be done at the same time as finishing the academic year. No student should see a year’s worth of work come to naught, along with the financial sacrifices that they and their families have had to make.”
The university called on all students, parents, staff and other stakeholders to help ensure that everyone had a chance to pass and “to create space for the next year of university intakes while at the same time giving equal priority to the broader political issues of funding and transformation”.
Management said they supported the right to peaceful protest but were opposed to the intimidation of staff or students and the disruption of academic activities.
“Students will be allowed to protest but only in specific, identified areas. Large groups of people engaged in protest action will not be allowed to gather outside the designated areas,” the statement said.
It added that anyone caught intimidating students or disrupting any university activity would face the possibility of suspension.
“We are completely opposed to violent protest. As such, anyone carrying rocks, stones, weapons or any other items that can be used to destroy property or inflict harm will immediately be disarmed, and may be suspended.”
Anyone deliberately concealing their identity could also expect to face sanctions.
The statement added that there would be rigorous control of access to campuses, including “comprehensive and sporadic checks of all vehicles, including buses”. All staff and students were required to carry their access cards with them.
“We appeal to every student and staff member to please bear with us during this difficult week as we work towards getting the academic programme back on track, which is in the interest of every Wits student,” Wits management added. – African News Agency (ANA)
South Africa Today – South Africa News