Wits University announced on Wednesday morning that academic activities would be halted in the face of continued fee protests. It also beefed up security, expecting further violence.
University students yesterday continued to step up protest activity on campuses countrywide, resulting in some universities suspending classes, while others forged ahead despite the disruptions.
The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) said in a statement that all its campuses were closed, while the University of the Free State (UFS) closed its doors and the University of Cape Town (UCT) suspended all lectures for yesterday and today.
Meanwhile, students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) marched to the Pietermaritzburg legislature to hand over a memorandum of demands.
The protest at Wits University – which started peacefully – turned into chaos when students clashed with law enforcers. The main glass doors of the Great Hall were smashed with rocks by students who accused police and private security officers of being heavy-handed.
Following their march to the Parktown Education campus, students went on the rampage upon arrival at the Great Hall, situated on the main campus.
Police fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
The defiant students shouted “we want free education for all” and told police officers they were also fighting for their parents, who can no longer afford higher education.
Secretary-general of the students representative council Fasiha Hassan said protesting students woud not be demobilised by security forces.
“Following what we have seen from the police and private securities, it is evident that they are not here to protect us … in fact, they are all criminals on our campus,” she said.
The protests followed the announcement by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande that tuition fee increases for 2017 would be determined by universities, but that it would be capped at 8% – except for poor students and the so-called “missing middle”, who would be guaranteed no increase in tuition fees.
The 31 Wits students who were arrested early yesterday were released on warnings yesterday afternoon.