In response to reports of violent clashes at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) in Johannesburg, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said:
“We call for restraint from all involved, including private security, the South African Police Service and students. Security personnel should only use force as the last resort, and even then only the bare minimum to prevent injury or loss of life. Any excessive or unnecessary use of force would violate domestic and international law.
“The students who are protesting peacefully must be allowed to do so and their right to peaceful assembly must be respected and protected. It’s also critical that Wits University administration and the Department of Higher Education work swiftly to resolve this dispute. If not, protests will continue into the foreseeable future, disrupting education.
“Further to this, Amnesty International South Africa is disturbed by reports of the media being asked to leave the campus. The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including press freedom is enshrined in our Constitution. The media must be allowed to remain on campus. As objective observers, they are vital in the documentation of events, including human rights violations.
Students are protesting against historic debt preventing some students from registering, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) residence cap of R45,000, and rules on registering with the Hardship Fund, among other things.
Friday, 3 March 2023, was the third day of protests.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Mienke Mari Steytler, Media and Communications Officer (Maternity Cover), Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0) 64 890 9224; firstname.lastname@example.org
Amnesty International South Africa office, 97 Oxford Road, Saxonwold, Johannesburg, 2196