Tasneem Essop, Wits SRC secretary, said in a statement that, “The reasons for the new dates include the difficulty students faced in obtaining pro bono legal representation.” Essop added that the Wits SRC do not have access to funds to employ advocates or attorneys and have been trying to obtain pro bono services in the last few weeks.
However, according to Wits Vuvuzela, incoming Vice-Chancellor Prof. Adam Habib said that the case has been postponed “At the request of the charged students so they can concentrate on their exams.” He also confirmed that the charges against the students will not be dropped despite the SRC’s “Right2Protest” campaign in various national media platforms this month.
Several protests have been arranged to get the charges brought against the students dropped. On 3 May 50 students protested against the charges, on 10 May 1000 students protested at a rally and on 13 May NEHAWU members and the Workers Solidarity Committee protested against the charges at the Wits University Senate House Concourse.
Wits SRC President Sibulele Mgudlwa told Wits Vuvuzela that “We are preparing a strong legal strategy to answer to the charges,” and added that the postponement will allow the students charged to focus on their exams and to build a strong case.
Mgudlwa told Perdeby earlier this month that the university’s code of conduct was not contravened and that students had a just cause for protesting against Reshef’s performance.
Last week, Professors Loyiso Nongxa, the current vice-chancellor of Wits, and Habib said in Business Day that, “We [Wits] welcome a thorough debate on issues related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and others, in an open and tolerant environment,” but added that, “We also demand that, while debate and protests happen, they do so within the parameters and boundaries established by our collective university community and within the laws of our country.”
According to the article the university has no problem with students protesting against Reshef, but said that “When 11 members of the Wits community allegedly violated university rules, impinged on the [rights] of others, broke up the concert and in effect violated academic freedom, we acted and subjected them to disciplinary hearings.”