'We might need a month': Students vow to protest until demands are met

'We're continuing the rest of the week, until our demands are met. The week might not be enough — we might need a month': Wits SRC president

Iavan Pijoos Journalist
The police used water cannons to disperse protesting Wits University students on Monday.
The police used water cannons to disperse protesting Wits University students on Monday.
Image: Alaister Russell

It could take “a month” of student protests before demands are ultimately met, Wits University SRC president Mpendulo Mfeka said on Monday.

Speaking in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, where students were protesting on Monday, Mfeka said the students would protest for as long as it took for President Cyril Ramaphosa to accede to their demand of “free education, and free education now”.

“The latest is that Braamfontein has been rendered ungovernable, and other parts of the country have also been rendered ungovernable. Over the weekend, we met with all SRC presidents, all 26 of us, and we decided that the state of higher education and learning in our country is not healthy and if we don't address its health a lot of students will suffer.

“We're continuing [with protests] the rest of the week, until our demands are met. The week might not be enough to address out demands — we might need a month,” said Mfeka.

On Monday, roads close to the University of Johannesburg (UJ) were barricaded with burning tyres and rocks as student protests continued.

Large numbers of students were singing songs outside the gates as a police helicopter hovered overhead and campus security stood guard. Motorists were forced to turn about and use alternative roads.

Earlier, the police used a water cannon to disperse Wits students who started fires on the street in Braamfontein. The cannon sent students scattering for cover.

Protesting students on Monday retaliated against the police after water cannons were used to disperse them.
Protesting students on Monday retaliated against the police after water cannons were used to disperse them.
Image: Alaister Russell

Shortly afterwards, students responded by hurling stones at the police.

The Wits students then moved to UJ, where they met up with students.

Asked whether protesting students were worried about the safety of civilians in the area, Mfeka said that was a consideration — but that ultimately “civilian safety is the primary concern of SAPS and JMPD more than it is our concern”.

“They [police] are literally hired to make sure that civilians and students in general are safe,” he said.

Protesting Wits students blockaded roads outside the university on Monday.
Protesting Wits students blockaded roads outside the university on Monday.
Image: Alaister Russell

Mfeka said that the numbers of students protesting could increase in the days to come.

“We had a meeting with different student formations, it was this morning at 3.30am, to say how do we find ways to work together beyond party lines. Some are yet to reconcile with those political differences.

“But as young people we will unite behind a common cause,” he said.

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