WITS: A University in the Apartheid Era

  • Publication Date: Sept 2022
  • Dimensions and Pages: 210 x 148mm Extent: 388pp
  • Paperback EAN: 978-1-77614-804-2
  • eBook EAN: 978-1-77614-807-3
  • PDF EAN: 978-1-77614-806-6
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 375
  • Recommended Price (USD): 35

With a foreword by Firoz Cachalia.

When the National Government assumed power in 1948, one of the earliest moves was
to introduce segregated education. Its threats to restrict the admission of black students
into the four ‘open universities’ galvanised the staff and students of those institutions to
oppose any attempt to interfere with their autonomy and freedom to decide who should
be admitted.

In subsequent years, as the regime adopted increasingly oppressive measures to
prop up the apartheid state, opposition on the campuses, and in the country, increased
and burgeoned into a Mass Democratic Movement intent on making the country

Protest escalated through successive states of emergency and clashes with police on
campus became regular events. Residences were raided, student leaders were harassed
by security police and many students and some staff were detained for lengthy periods
without recourse to the courts.

First published in 1996, WITS: A University in the Apartheid Era by Mervyn Shear tells
the story of how the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) adapted to the political and
social developments in South Africa under apartheid. This new edition is published in the
University’s centenary year with a preface by Firoz Cachalia, one of Wits’ student leaders
in the 1980s. It serves as an invaluable historical resource on questions about the
relationship between the University and the state, and on understanding the University’s
place and identity in a constitutional democracy.

Keywords: University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; centenary; university
history; Wits; intellectual history; institutional history; student protest; student
resistance; state of emergency; relationship between university and state.

Foreword by Firoz Cachalia
Chapter 1 Racial Discrimination at Wits
Chapter 2 The Threat to the ‘Open’ Universities
Chapter 3 Activists Under Pressure
Chapter 4 Student Politics in Black and White
Chapter 5 The 1980s
Chapter 6 Wits and the First State of Emergency
Chapter 7 Resistance Escalates
Chapter 8 Challenge to the Government
Chapter 9 The Struggle Reaches a Climax
Chapter 10 Transition to Democracy
Chapter 11 Epilogue

Mervyn Shear was Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg from 1983 to 1990. He was an Emeritus Professor of Wits University
and Extraordinary Professor at the University of the Western Cape.

Firoz Cachalia is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Law at the University of the
Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and Director of the Mandela Institute.

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