By: TMG Digital
University of the Witwatersrand vice-chancellor Adam Habib said he was hopeful that Friday’s general assembly would present a “university pledge to the world” that has a “buy-in from all stakeholders”.
But‚ he also was mindful that should it fail to do so‚ the university could shut its doors.
Habib told Radio 702 on Thursday morning that negotiations about the pledge had been “ongoing over the last 24 hours”‚ and the theme of the assembly was the “principle of free education and how this community approaches it”.
Quizzed about the position of militant student groups‚ Habib said: “Well‚ they’ve said they would be party to a process to move towards the General Assembly.
“We are currently involved in that process. We hope that all stakeholders will buy into it and that we arrive at a consensus position‚” he told the station.
This‚ he said‚ would allow the university to reopen on Monday.
But‚ Habib cautioned: “If this doesn’t work we are on very slippery ground. I have said it before and I will have to say it again‚ we have two options: Either to open with the police and with security services‚ or if that doesn’t succeed we will have to close down‚ including the residences.
“It’s not a threat. It’s a simple statement of fact. If Wits University is not teaching‚ is not researching‚ then there’s no purpose in it being open.”
He acknowledged that a general assembly is a “very rare and very‚ very formal event”‚ and added that the last one was about “HIV-Aids 15 years ago‚ and before that‚ in 1992‚ about negotiations”.
The latter was a reference to Codesa (Convention for a Democratic South Africa)‚ the multi-party talks that paved the transition to a democratic South Africa.
Habib pointed out‚ that while all the “university’s constituencies” could talk at the assembly‚ it was not a “debating forum” but rather an “assembly where a position of consensus is presented to the world”
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