Home News Wits Students Undeterred by Disbandment, Pledge Continued Support for Palestinian Cause

Wits Students Undeterred by Disbandment, Pledge Continued Support for Palestinian Cause

by Thaabit Kamaar

Johannesburg – After a tense 12-hour standoff on Sunday with Wits University authorities, the Wits Liberated Zone encampment has been disbanded. However, students are not deterred, they have already begun planning for various future Palestinian solidarity initiatives.

Jonathan Yahya West, an encampment member, explained that last Thursday, the encampment received a message from the institution stating that the university is currently under a moratorium.

This means student events are prohibited on campus, and the encampment was perceived as breaching the rules. The message threatened severe consequences for any students or participants still on campus grounds by Sunday.

West affirmed that students met with each other and had lengthy discussions, considering everyone’s fears, thoughts, and feelings. Given that the futures of many could be affected, members decided it was in the best interest of the students to disband.

“What happened on Sunday is we packed up what was necessary, we set up our artwork, our symbols, and we pulled our posters. We encircled our camp, did some protesting, did some chants, and we sat down in our encampment waiting for Wits to disband the camp. We sat for, I want to say, 12 hours from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the afternoon with no one on the side really willing to budge … Eventually, we came to the decision that this was a stalemate and as we left the campgrounds the campus security stepped in and took apart the remainder of our camp.”

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“Students are More Motivated than Ever”

Despite the disbandment of the encampment and the threats they faced, the students’ resilience shone through. Their determination to fight for the Palestinian cause remained unwavering.

West emphasized, “Wits has lit a fire that they’re not going to know how to put out.” He believes that students are now more motivated than ever, especially since Wits demonstrated their unwillingness to meet the students’ demands and make a significant gesture of solidarity with the Palestinians.

“Students are more motivated than ever. Obviously, we are heading into exam season. We will have to plan wisely. We will have to choose times when we can mobilise the most students and then choose times that don’t affect our studies. We don’t want to interrupt anyone. Our movement is about building a future, it’s not about disruption. We will plan and use this time to work out what comes next.”

Reflecting on the impact of the students’ efforts, West stated that they, along with thousands of students worldwide, stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza and Palestine.

Though the outcome may not have been what they hoped for, their actions united various facets of civil society, everyday people from different backgrounds, academics, Wits alums, and political parties toward a common goal. For West, this movement transcends political or legal victories. It is about changing hearts and minds and building a united front for justice.

“I think there’s power in that, and that’s the real victory of these types of movements, which is not to change the system from the top down but from the bottom up to change the hearts and minds of the people.”

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