World Bulletin / News Desk
“We have made this concession because we do not want the scenes that played out on our university campuses to be repeated,” the university’s executive team said in a statement late Tuesday.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas Tuesday to disperse protesting students who were demanding free education for all. Students had retaliated by throwing stones at the police and private security guards.
The student protests began two weeks back following an announcement that there would be a 8 percent tuition hike in the 2017 academic year. Since then, scenes of police clashing with students have become common at several universities across the country.
Witwatersrand University, one of the top universities in the country, said it held negotiations with former leaders of the Black Student Society and Student Representative Council, backed by the clergy, on Tuesday. It said the suspension of classes would enable the process to continue.
“We have agreed to withdraw the police to the perimeter of the university’s campuses under the express commitment from all parties that there will be no violence or intimidation of students and staff,” it said.
On Monday, President Jacob Zuma condemned the violent student protests, saying it had caused an estimated 600 million rand ($44 million) loss in terms of damage done to university properties.
Addressing delegates at the opening of a forum over the crisis in universities, Zuma said: “The wanton destruction of university property that we have witnessed are shocking criminal acts.”
Stakeholders gathered at the summit are expected to explore both short and long-term solutions to end the ongoing protests.
Last year, South Africa witnessed similar protests, which then forced the government to avoid a tuition hike for 2016.