Wits students ready to take the fight over fees national

Wits students fighting for financially excluded students are prepared to nationalise their protest and join forces with other institutions.
Wits students fighting for financially excluded students are prepared to nationalise their protest and join forces with other institutions.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Wits University SRC deputy president Sthembiso Dabula says they are prepared to take the fight over fees nationwide.

“We are all facing the same issues. Financial exclusion is an issue of most universities in the country. So what we are going to do, if it means we are going to nationalise the matter, we are going to do it. If it means we need to join forces to do it, we are prepared to do anything for students,” she said.

The South African Union of Students gave higher education minister Blade Nzimande an ultimatum to meet a list of demands or face a threatened nationwide shutdown of higher education institutions on Monday. The demands included the clearance of all historical student debts.

Dabula said students were disgruntled.

“Nothing has changed, everything is still the same - but just that we are more disgruntled now, because we were hopeful when there was a media briefing yesterday. We thought they were going to say something positive and meet our demands.

“But it seems as if the universities are not taking us seriously, they are not concerned about students, so at this point we must continue to put our bodies on the line to say that we are here and we are going to achieve zero financial exclusion,” she said.

The Wits SRC reported that members were issued with letters of suspension by the university.

Dabula said two members were suspended. “There are only two members who were suspended and we had to make [provision for their] accommodation. We are now on the ground waiting for more members to join,” she said.

Students held a night vigil on Thursday for Mthokozisi Ntumba at the campus and where he died in Braamfontein. In his memory, they changed the street name where he died to  “Ntumba”.

Some former Wits student leaders have also joined in the protest.

“It means a lot for us as students that some of our former members have joined us in this fight because these are the former leaders, these are the same leaders that led the foundation to say that commercialising education is wrong,” said Dabula.

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