After a day of violence, rubber bullets, shock grenades and thrown stones, the Wits #Fees2017 protest on Thursday received what felt like new momentun after a meeting in Solomon House which sought to unite students from different politcal organisations, endorse leaders and was opened by former #FeesMustFall leader Mcebo Dlamini.
Dlamini led a march of students from Education Campus to Solomon House in the afternoon. The protesters were allowed to march peacefully, escorted by Campus Control, with the police watching from a distance.
Dlamini was greeted at Solomon House, the place where last year he held centre stage as a student leader, with cheers from the students assembled.
But Dlamini quickly made clear that he was present only to support new leaders. Pointing at SRC president and Progressive Youth Alliance member Kefenste Mkhari,Wits Economic Freedom Fighters leader Koketso Poho as well as student activist Catherine Busisiwe Seabe, Dlamini said “These are the leaders that will deliver free education for us.”
Continuing, Dlamini declared that students “have the numbers” and if the government did not provide free education they would vote it out of power.
“If the ruling party does not provide free education, we are going to vote it out and put leadership that will prioritise education,” Dlamini said.
Dlamini was heckled by some protesters, including a group of female students near the front carrying sjamboks but he responded, “If you don’t like me it’s okay I don’t care I just want to work with you.”
Dlamini then handed the microphone off to Mkhari who emphasised that the student protest was peaceful and should remain so while condemning police violence. He said the movement was drawing a line against violence.
“Today we have separated the violent protesters from the non-violent protesters,” Mkhari said.
Worker’s representative Thandiswa Yaphi also spoke at Solomon House. She spoke about the unfair treatment of workers highlighting that Wits students should not allow the Matrix to operate until workers from Sizzlers, a cafe in the Matrix, who were dismissed are re-instated. She highlighted that insourcing was the solution for retail workers at Wits.
“There are no workers who are better than others, when I go to work I say I’m going to Wits not Sizzlers,” she said.
Seabe and the other student leaders then assigned some positions and broke the students into task teams that would deal with media, logistics and strategy. Dlamini also announced that a number of academics including struggle icon Ahmad Kathrada would be supporting the movement. The students are set to convene at Solomon House this evening to discuss a way forward for the protest.
Originally published on WitsVuvuzela