By Staff Reporters

Long before being emboldened by the #Fees Must Fall Movement, Wits students in
particular have always been the loudest voice with respect to students ‘challenges around
accessibility to higher education and exorbitant fees.

This calendar year started off no differently from the previous ones with classes having
being disrupted by protesting students. Their grievances are no different either. Some have
described these protests to encompass a wide range of activities that indicate student
dissatisfaction with a given political or academics issue.

Therefore they lead to a mobilization to communicate this dissatisfaction to the authorities
(university or civil or both) and society in general and hopefully remedy the problem.
However, the varsity is digging in its heels and is adamant that the students’ demands are
based on untrue claims, therefore they can’t address the protesting students. This attitude by the university seem to have agitated the students and they have vowed to intensify the protest. Amongst their demands, the Students Representative Council(SRC) is demanding that Wits register over 6000 who have been financially excluded from registering.

Shirona Patel, the university’s spokesperson vehemently denied that they have never seen
the list of the students’ and questioned its validity. The list though by the protesting
students demand an end to financial exclusions, more student accommodation as well as
higher residence allowances.

SRC member Solami Buthelezi said the body was frustrated that university management had
still not met with students. “They are very arrogant, and it doesn’t have to be like that. We tried to negotiate in good faith. We are prepared to meet them pound for pound with arrogance. The conclusion to this is that all students must register, or Wits must absolve their debt.”
The SRC list of demands also include the following:
 – All students owing R150 000 or less should be allowed to register for the 2023 academic
 – The R10 000 upfront fee to secure residence placement should be waived, and students
should be allowed to move in.
 – The university must allocate an additional R30 million towards an accommodation fund to
secure more beds for homeless students.
 – The National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s R45 000 cap for residences should be
scrapped immediately.
 – All students who are beneficiaries of the Hardship Fund should be allowed to register and
not pay the residual amount.

With escalation of tensions on campus,interest groups including Amnesty International
South Africa are calling Wits University security to exercise restraint during the protest. This
human rights organisation said it is disturbed by reports that the media has been barred
from the campus. The organisation also said security at the University of Witwatersrand
should only use force against protesting students as a last resort, and then “only the bare
minimum to prevent injury or loss of life”.

Its executive director Shenilla Mohamed said: “We call for restraint from all involved,
including private security, the South African Police Service and students… Any excessive or
unnecessary use of force would violate domestic and international law.” Whiles both the SRC and varsity management are still at loggerheads, it is important to note some of Equal Education’s submission to the Fees Commission amongst others it stated that.

It supported the call for free education, and second, it stated that the crisis in basic education
has a direct link to the crisis in higher education. Out of the 27 universities in the country
there is only six top universities, former white universities. The majority of universities
continue to be in quite terrible condition.

Free education should be for the poor. However, those who can afford to pay, must pay. In
cases where a middle-class family is able to pay there must be a certain amount contributed
by the state.

The current system continues to benefit middle-class students rather than poor students. Very
poor students must not be subjected to a loan. [They] must be afforded the opportunity to
study for free and that’s what we mean by free education.

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