JOHANNESBURG – Nompendulo Mkatshwa, outgoing President of the Student Representative Council, said today that police had fired stun grenades at students gathered near the university to call for planned increases in university fees to be scrapped.
Police fired stun grenades and arrested 31 students in clashes at the University of the Witwatersrand today, following a clash that began when students marched to protest against a government recommendation that 2017 university tuition fee increases be capped at 8 percent. The cap is higher than South Africa’s current inflation rate of 6 percent.
Security has been tightened after Wits students held a meeting on Monday night and vowed to shut down academic activities in protest against against 2017 tuition fee hike. Police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini said the arrested students “were blocking the entrance of the university in contravention of the court order” and were being held at a nearby station.
“Students are not happy with what the Department of Higher Education and Training said, so they are fighting for equal education,” Mkatshwa said.
In Cape Town earlier today, entrances to at least two University of Cape Town campuses and several Jammie Shuttle routes were blocked off by protesting #FeesMustFall students.
Baxter Road was blocked off by protesters, with Jammie Shuttle routes on the lower campus blockaded by chanting studentsv on Tuesday morning.
The north entrance to upper campus at the top of Woolsack Avenue was also blocked off, as was access to the medical school campus. Students set up boulders, tree stumps and rubble across entryways and rallied support from classmates.
Riot police and private security staff were called in to man all the entrances to the university in an attempt to discourage further protest action.
A large crowd gathered on the steps of Jameson Hall. There were reports of storming buildings, attempting to disrupt classes on UCT and rallying students to join the protest.
By 12pm, the main hall at UCT was filled with students chanting. “We want free education!”
On Monday Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced that it was up to universities to determine their own increase, but that the increments would be capped at eight percent.
All NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) qualifying students as well as the so-called ‘missing middle’ – that is students whose families earn above the NSFAS threshold but who are unable to support their children to access to higher education, would bear no fee increase in 2017.
He said the government will pay for the fee increase on their behalf, which has been estimated at R2.5 billion.
– Staff reporters and agencies