Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Four Wits University students have been arrested for contravening a court interdict by causing disruptions to the academic programme.

Wits acquired the interdict from the High Court in Johannesburg in April 2016 during Fees Must Fall protests to stop protestors from damaging university property and engaging in unlawful behaviour. This interdict led to the arrest of Mcebo Dlamini and a number of students arrested in 2016.

On Monday about 150 students protested at the university’s education campus, demanding better accommodation conditions. The students stormed into a lecture room at the Parktown campus where they disrupted a lesson and attempted to block the entrances to the campus.

The first student was arrested and suspended on Monday and taken to Hillbrow Police Station. Three others were arrested on Tuesday when they tried to continue with the protest.

The university said students who broke the rules, violated the rights of others or disrupted any university activities would be immediately suspended in line with the university’s protocols, policies and procedures.

After receiving a memorandum of demands from students, Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said that representatives from the senior executive team had attended a meeting with the education students council on Monday to discuss management’s responses to the demands received from students.

However, the student representatives refused to explore the significant issues raised in the memorandum and "instead insisted that the management representatives address all protesting students and the talks broke down", Patel said.

She said management representatives were not willing to address all students as they had tried this approach the previous week but were threatened, insulted and publicly humiliated.

In communication to the student body, management said they were concerned that student protests were emerging without issues first being raised through formal structures.

"Some of these actions are being used to destabilise the academic programme, advance the politics of spectacle, direct abuse towards others, and violate the rights of others by, for example, blocking entrances to campuses".

Patel said the academic programme was resuming after the scuffles on Monday but with a heavy security presence.

Management has agreed to address all students in the school at a mutually agreeable time later this week.

The student representative council (SRC) was not available for comment.

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