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University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)
On Monday, 4 April, student protests, led by the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania, disrupted academic activities on Wits’s Braamfontein campus. According to News24, protesters chanting “fees must fall” disrupted lectures, vandalised property, and started a fire in a lecture hall in the Umthombo Building. The university condemned the behaviour from what it said were approximately 150 individuals.
Speaking to eNCA, Prof. Andrew Crouch, Vice-Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of academics at Wits, said that there were a number of causes protesters aligned themselves with, predominantly relating to demands for free education and the insourcing of workers. According to Wits management, no injuries were reported and no significant damage was done to property. The university has since deployed additional security to the affected campus.
According to Kyle Oberholzer, a Wits journalism student, the main road and entrance to the university were blocked off by protesters. “After that [the protest] made its way to Senate Hall where protesters tipped over pot plants and dustbins. People were also admitted to the campus health clinic after protesters let off fire extinguishers in offices with people in them,” explained Oberholzer.
Oberholzer added that the protests was “led at most times by EFF leader Vuyani Pambo”, and that Pambo had said that the protest on campus was not an EFF one, but a FeesMustFall protest.
Another journalism student, Leanne Cumming, said that it seemed as if it was not only Wits students who participated in the protest. Cumming also explained that a woman, who was initially part of the protests, was assaulted. “Parts of campus were shut down [and] students were asking guards at the booms not to let anyone else on campus ... but that didn’t happen,” added Cumming.
On 6 April Wits’ Senate Hall was officially renamed to Solomon Mahlangu House. The SRC said in a statement, “It seems only fitting that today 37 years after the brutal hanging of one of our most formidable anti-apartheid youth leaders on 6 April 1979, that the Wits SRC comes out successful in this proposal to rename Senate House to Solomon Mahlangu House.” Final processes for the renaming are currently underway.
Image: Mickey Cost's Twitter page.
Stellenbosch University (SU)
On 2 April, a 20-year old female student from SU was raped in a car at a parking lot near the Heemstede residence. According to IOL, this is the second rape to be reported at the university in about three months. A 32-year old suspect has since been arrested and appeared in the Stellenbosch magistrate’s court on 4 April. The case has been postponed to 5 May, with the suspect released on bail of R500.
North-West University (NWU)
Following nearly a month of closure, NWU’s Mahikeng campus was reopened on Tuesday 29 March under tightened security. Speaking to The Citizen, NWU spokesperson Koos Degenaar explained that the suspension and subsequent closure of the campus was due to damage to property caused by protesting students. Damage to university infrastructure is estimated at R150 million following violent protests which saw the administration building and a science centre torched.
University of the Free State (UFS)
From 2017, English will be the primary medium of instruction at undergraduate and postgraduate level at UFS. This comes after the UFS council gave the green light for a revision of the institution’s language policy which sees Afrikaans removed as a medium of instruction.
According to UFS spokesperson Lacea Loader, the majority of the university council voted in favour of a language policy which is committed to multilingualism. Loader added that there would be several exemptions, citing Afrikaans to be used at UFS for those students studying teaching in Afrikaans, as well as theology students looking to minister in Afrikaans-speaking churches.
Students currently studying in Afrikaans will be allowed to finish their studies in Afrikaans, as per the conditions of their enrolment. However, from 2017 onwards students will only be able to enrol in English as a medium of instruction.
University of Mpumalanga (UM)
On 2 April, Deputy-President Cyril Ramaphosa was installed as the first Chancellor of the University of Mpumalanga at the Ingwenyama Resort in White River. UM, which is one of the country’s youngest universities established in 2014 alongside Sol Plaatjie University in the Northern Cape. The establishment of these universities means that every province in the country is now home to at least one university.
Image: PresidencyZA's Twitter page