Twelve University of Johannesburg students have been barred from entering the campus after the institution was granted a provisional interdict against them in the South Gauteng High Court earlier today.
The interdict also prevents “unlawful demonstrations” by protesting students.
The university’s legal representative, advocate Dirk Vetten, said the university sought court assistance “in drawing the line”, as a result of the increased nature of illegal activities on campus. The university have charged the twelve suspended students with misconduct relating to a number of incidents on campus.
Yesterday, the university’s main auditorium was set alight, causing damage worth R100 million according to the statement released by the vice chancellor’s office. No suspects have yet been arrested or identified.
The judge said there was no evidence before the court proving that the burning of the building was done by the suspended students.
Judge Raylene Keightley gave all respondents present in court an opportunity to raise their concerns, explaining to the students that the order was for stopping “unlawful” action.
“The interdict prevents protest action that infringes on the right of other students, staff and visitors on campus and the university’s right to protect its property”, said Keightley.
Lindokuhle Xulu, one of the suspended students, opposed the interdict saying it infringes on their right to access education.
“We are chased away by bouncers every time we try to access campus to study and go to the library. Can the university guarantee us that we will exercise our right to education?” said Xulu.
Sandile Mdlongwa, one of the suspended students who was arrested last week following therecent surge in violent incidents on campus, questioned the validity of the institution blocking their entrance to the university.
“Is it constitutionally correct for academically deserving students to be deprived of their right to education?” asked Mdlongwa.
Xhamla Songwevu, claimed that unlawful protests happen because the university never grants them as students, permission to protest whenever they apply.
While deliberating on her decision, the judge asked for a provision to be added to the interdict that the suspended students be allowed to approach the institution for re-consideration of their current suspension terms.
Keightley stressed that the university should allow students access for academic purposes and reconsider the evictions of resident students.
In addition to protest action, the interdict prohibits activity by any person from blocking university entrances, threats of violence, obstructing the movement of other students, staff and other members of the university community.
The 12 suspended students will face a disciplinary hearing tomorrow in Kempton Park.
Meanwhile, the provisional interdict will remain in force for the next two weeks until the matter returns to court on May 31, 2016.
Media transformation will again be a topic of discussion in a critical debate to be held at Wits tomorrow May 18, 2016. The debate will be deliberating the extent of transformation in a South African context, with specific focus in ownership, control, power, staffing and policy.
The dialogue comes a few weeks after a debate was held during freedom week in April where transformation in ownership, diversity of news rooms were highlighted in a panel discussion about the meaning of media freedom in South Africa. On the evening, Mail & Guardian journalist, Pontsho Pilane said media freedom could not be entirely realised without transformation in ownership and the make-up of the newsroom.
Pilane highlighted that transformation in news room was an important element in the realisation of media freedom. “I’m really interested in who are the editors of the newspapers we read, are the demographics of the newsroom reflective of the society we live in?” said Pilane.
Karabo Rajuili, advocacy co-ordinator at Amabhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) said in order for press freedom to be realised, there needs to be diversity and an independent media.
Rajuili stressed that if owners of media companies interfere with editorial freedom, they pose a threat to journalism. She noted that the biggest threat to media freedom was the different legislative frameworks which are being imposed on the media. “In the last two years we’ve seen quite a strain of legislation in the country and some relate to censorship” said Rajuili.
Tomorrow’s event, organised by Wits School of Literature, Language and Media will include amongst some of the panelists Lumko Mtimde, Professor Jane Duncan, Sekoetlane Phamodi, Dr Mashilo Boloko and Dr Glenda Daniels. The proceedings will commence at 4:30 PM at the Humanities Graduate Centre, Seminar Room.
The Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (Daso) has pulled out of today’s SRC by-elections, claiming that they are “unconstitutional”.
Daso said the elections are unconstitutional because they fall under a “moratorium clause” which stipulates that there should be no social events within three weeks of exams, according to a press statement released by the organisation. However, according to the moratorium on social events issued by the Dean of Student on the 20th of April, which Wits Vuvuzela has in its possession, the moratorium will be in effect from the 8th of May – two weeks before June examinations. The exam period at Wits begins on May 24.
Daso also argue that under the SRC constitution, a by-election can only be held if there are two or more vacancies to be filled. The by-election on May 5, are being held to fill one space vacated by Lesego Mokwena who left the SRC before her term was over. The SRC constitution, under Section 11 says that “in the event of any executive or other office falling vacant, the SRC must elect one of its members to such office by no later than the next ordinary meeting”. The dean of students, Dr Puleng Lenka-Bula could not be reached for comment at the time of publication. Wits SRC media relations officer Mzwanele Ntshwanti declined to comment on the matter.
DASO also allege that Mokwena’s election was “unlawful” in the first instance as she was not a full-time student at the time. “… The previously elected person it is alleged was not a registered Wits student. She was a candidate of the Progressive Youth Alliance and had been unlawfully elected to serve as the Wits SRC,” read a statement from DASO. The SRC constitution stipulates that a member ceases to be part of the SRC when they cease to be a student of the university.
South African Student Congress (Sasco), coordinator Lesley Ramutlwa said the university management failed to detect that Mokwena was not eligible to run as a candidate last year, as she was not a registered student.
“The system has flaws,” said Ramutlwa. “The university failed to do its duty and by letting her run [for the elections] they didn’t protect her identity”, said Ramutlwa.
Wits Daso secretary Yanga Damane says they have written to the vice-chancellor demanding an explanation for the election of Mokwena.
“We need a report to tell us what happened. We don’t have confidence in the system used by the university,” said Damane.