What started as a student-led protest against a raise in tuition fees at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg last week, became a nationwide day of mass action in South Africa on Wednesday.
South African students took their fight against the proposed 10 to 12% raise in tuition fee’s to the country’s parliament Wednesday (Oct. 21), one week after the #Feesmustfall protests began at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and have since spread to at least 18 universities in eight provinces.
The National Shutdown Collective who are spearheading the demonstrations issued a statement on Tuesday:
“We, the students of 2015, stand in solidarity with one another to proclaim that we will not be complicit in an endorsement of the capitalist agenda of commodification of education and any oppression’s which seek to denigrate our being. We demand, among other things, that the exorbitant fees charged at institutions of higher learning be lowered in line with a progression toward opening the gates of higher learning for all.”
“We want the minister of finance and higher education here. They must come out and tell us what their plans are to resolve the funding crisis in universities. How are they discussing this budget without listening to us?” Simnikiwe Ndlovu, a student from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, told Quartz.
On a day of protest that called for a #NationalShutDown on social media, students marched their way through the gates of parliament before being violently driven back by police firing rubber bullets, gas and tossing stun grenades directly at the students, causing several to be injured. 29 Students were arrested and released Thursday morning with charges of – “trespassing” and “illegal gathering.” The case against all 29 students was postponed to February 23.
Zikisa Maqubela, the head of Rhodes University’s Student Representative Council, told eNCA: “Students are protesting about the minimum initial payment, which means students are required to pay 50% of the fees. This means if students live in [residence], they will be required to pay up to [45,000 South African rand].”
In American dollars, that’s about $3,354.20. While that may not sound like a lot, a recent study from the South African Institute of Race Relations estimates that only about 5% of South Africans can comfortably afford college for their children.
Imraan Christian was on the frontlines in Cape Town. Below is a partial account from the #NationalShutDown re-posted from Okay Africa.
Today, students across South Africa held a nationwide shutdown of universities in protest of the 10.8% fee increases proposed for next year. In Cape Town, students from the University of Cape Town, Cape Peninsula University of Technology and University of the Western Cape, along with supporters of the student movement, mobilized and conducted a peaceful protest outside parliament in preparation for Blade Nzimande’s address, which was scheduled for 2pm.
Instead, we were made to wait an hour, then we were met with what I would describe as a military operation conducted by the South African Police Services, taken straight from the days of Apartheid. DIVIDE – INTIMIDATE – BRUTALIZE. In gangs of policeman, they beat our sisters to the ground, trampled their defenseless bodies, threw stun grenades, smoke grenades, pepper spray, and cordoned off the students into smaller groups so that they could fuck us up even more. In order to disperse the crowd, the police, now on motorbikes and armed with guns with rubber bullets, set off on a path of what can only be described as sadistic police brutality.
We are unarmed, intelligent students who understand that if we allow fees to go up by 10%, then in ten years time, fees will be doubled, and blacks will become uneducated cheap labour- once again, fit only for building the palaces of white supremacy.
Thousands of University students flooded the streets of South Africa again on Thursday, marching on the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg to deliver a memorandum to the ruling party on whats now the ninth day of protest action that shows no sign of slowing down.
A march is planned for Friday to the Union Buildings where President Jacob Zuma is expected to meet the senior management of various universities and students leaders.
The nationwide protests are the biggest student demonstrations since apartheid ended in 1994, the BBC reported.
Current student occupation of UWC student centre.
— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) October 22, 2015