Students and police clash at Wits University in South Africa

Members of the clergy, parents and anti-apartheid struggle stalwarts will mediate a process of consensus on Friday. The varsity is expected to resume classes in the following week.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas at hundreds of students who marched through the university's Johannesburg campus.

The University of the Witwatersrand has confirmed an agreement has been reached between the management and student representatives to resume academic courses on Monday, October 10. The announcement came after police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas at hundreds of students on Tuesday who marched through the university's Johannesburg campus.

Unrest first broke out last year at many South African universities as students protested against annual fee increases. The demonstration highlighted inequalities which have endured for more than two decades after the end of apartheid. The cost of education has forced poorer, often black, pupils out of education. 

This year the frustration boiled over again, leading to the closure of some classes and universities, when Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on September 19 that fees would continue to rise, albeit with an 8 per cent cap in 2017. 

On Tuesday students were "toyi-toyi" – a common display of protest through the stomping of feet and chanting political slogans. The dance was used throughout decades of struggle against white supremacist rule.

"To enable this process to continue, we have agreed to suspend the academic programme with a common objective to resume it in full on Monday, 10 October 2016," senior executives of the university said in a statement to local media.


The institution also agreed to host a student assembly on Friday to address the funding crisis. Members of the clergy, parents and anti-apartheid struggle stalwarts such as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela will facilitate and mediate a process of consensus-building. 

Police fired stun grenades and tear gas at students for violating a court order prohibiting public gatherings at Wits University on Tuesday. The court order bars more than two students from gathering together in groups on campus. 

At least two people were arrested when police moved in to enforce a court order on public gatherings at the university. 

"I am not sure free education is feasible. And I am worried about attacks on other students. It's inflicting fear in other students. It's not right," said one final-year law student, who was not taking part in the protests and did not want to give his name.

The university itself advised non-participating students to remain indoors.

"Following yesterday's harassment of our staff, we have no choice but to deploy police around campus," university spokeswoman Shirona Patel said.

She said the university, which shut during earlier protests, reopened on Monday, but some students forced some of the lecturers out of their offices.


The University of Cape Town also said it would open as usual on Wednesday, despite protests on its campuses.

University administrators across South Africa have warned that any further fee freezes could affect academic programmes.

TRTWorld and agencies