Students chant slogans during protests in Braanfontein, South Africa, March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Students at the University of Witswatersrand embarked on protests at the Braamfontein campus in March 2021 over the financial exclusion of students. The students said they wanted those who owed the university R150 000 in historical debt to be allowed to register.

On 9 March 2021, traffic was badly affected on Empire Road in Johannesburg due to a protest by students.

Wits University said that if it continued to accept students who have historical debt, the institution would become financially unsustainable.

The university said it was owed R1 billion in outstanding fees accumulated over the past seven years. Wits University spokesperson, Shirona Patel, said the so-called missing middle remained a challenge. Patel said:

“These are students who have accumulated debt because they cannot pay and they do not quality for NSFAS. That accumulated debt over the years. If we continue to accept students with this historical debt it means that the university will become financially unsustainable. We do not want to be bailed out by government. We want to be a financially sustainable organisation. Yes, we want to keep the doors open for as many people as possible but we do have limited resources. What this means is call on the private sector and public sector to support those students in the missing middle."



Witts Protest Man Shot

One person died after police fired rubber bullets at Wits University's protesting students at the Braamfontein campus.[2]


  1. Tshepo Phagane, One person shot dead following Wits protest, SABC News, Published: March 10, 2021, Retrieved: March 10, 2021
  2. SABC News, Twitter, Published: March 10, 2021, Retrieved: March 10, 2021