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South African Students Riot to Demand Free University Education



Hundreds of students demanding free tertiary education clashed with police at one of South Africa’s top universities, media report said on Tuesday.

Students threw stones and overturned a police vehicle, vowing to shut down Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand – known as Wits – until their demands were met.

Police used rubber bullets, smoke grenades and tear gas to disperse the protesters.

Several people were reported to have been slightly injured.

The university said two students were arrested.

“All lectures are underway at the moment with no reported disruptions of the academic programme. We are watching events tightly and if any university rules are broken or the rights of others are infringed, the university will hold those responsible immediately accountable,” the statement added.

The protests were part of the nationwide Fees Must Fall campaign over the cost of the country’s universities, prohibitive for many black students, which in 2015 forced President Jacob Zuma to rule out fee increases for 2016.

Meanwhile the students’ demands for free education have received backing from the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters, the third-largest party in parliament.

However, university authorities have warned that fee cuts could damage academic standards.

According to the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Adam Habib, they need fee hikes of 8% “or they are dead in the water.”


  1. EE

    October 4, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I’m curious, isn’t this the height of stupidity?? They’re using violence to make their requests, what happens when the state decides to use violence to tell them no???

    Anyways, I enjoy observing SA’s dysfunction, so protest on, my left leaners, may those fees fall.

    • Tosin

      October 6, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      your conception of what the state is , dude, it’s the 21st century. they want education, their country had better give them education.

  2. imali

    October 4, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    NO.. these students weren’t being violent.. I WAS THERE.. the protests were largely peaceful consisting of singing, and a march. but when police start arresting students for no reason.. and beating students.. and shooting students who werent even part of the protest then it becomes a problem.

    it my sound absurd that students are protesting for free education.. but all these students are doing is demanding that which was promised to them.. it was written that by the end of 2013 there would be free education for all.. yet look what year it is.. all would have been well had the government not made a promise they could not keep.

    There is no reason a federal university charges so much money.. its ridiculous.. this is not a private school.. most of these students come from rural areas.. some of their parents are cleaners, farmers, maids.. it makes no sense that someone who hearns 2000 rands a month is expected to pay school fees of 80, 000 this is excluding accomodation, feeding etc etc…

    later it is this same government that will complain about the lack of interest in education, the lack of skilled labour, the declining number of university graduates.. its just that simple.. how many can afford these fees? and yet they want to increase it again? ou might aswell tell the students to forget about an education

    • EE

      October 4, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      Thanks for the insider POV, two things though:

      1. Which came first, police actions or the student violence? Clearly the stones weren’t throwing themselves. They’re many moving parts in a riot, maybe even infiltrators who want to rile up events.

      2. A promise is a promise, true, but are the students taking into cognizance, SA’s current weak finances??? Things aren’t exactly the same as in 2013,

      But anyways, I have a personal distaste for protests, the students should have voted en-masse for a party to enforce their platform and waited. Protests can quickly spiral.

    • imali

      October 5, 2016 at 4:26 am

      Yes at EE.. from what I saw… It was the police that started it.. This is because they started to beat students who at the time weren’t doin anything illégal.. believe it or not.. protests are permitted.. but the leaders must register their protest a minimum of 5 working days in advance… so the school knew about the protests.. It is also normal to solicit the help of law enforcement.. but when a student gets shot at just for simply walking on the street. or crossing the road.. then it’s a problem..
      BN is in possession of what I consider to be biased information… I know all this because I was there ( Not protesting tho).. but I do have my own personal videos that I took. I also have friends in other universities who videoed their own situations.. you can clearly see a student be dragged on the tarred road.. For NO reason.. In such cases these students will get agitated, and that’s when rocks will be thrown..

      Secondly, the government made the promise.. they should have considered the feasibility of it before making such promise.. In writing.. The economic situation is due to the government’s incompetence corruption everywhere.. stupidity everywhere.. when Zuma was renovating his house.. He should have thought about the tax payers whose money he used.. Dis you know that the government recently used a few millions of rands( if not billions) to buy “new and improved condoms” for people’s satisfaction?. The minister of youth literallygot up in parliament to brag about how the government has heard the cries of people and have now purchased millions of condoms that are flavoured strawberry and grape… really? flavoured condoms? I can’t make these things up.. These are facts.. I see the’s free condoms everywhere in schools, clinics.. but for the government to prioritise sexual pleasure by paying extra to have them flavoured is ridiculous .. when students want to learn…

  3. NK

    October 4, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    The irony of the entire situation was that students received an email telling them that lectures will go on but only was entrance was opened and students were not allowed to use it in order to access lecture halls. Some of the lecturers too are unhappy about the situation because of the presence of police on campus. As one lecturer noted the university is supposed to be an autonomous environment where lecturer, management and students can engage on such issues and many others without the need of heavy police presence as well as all the brutality.

  4. Omoté

    October 5, 2016 at 4:41 am

    Truth be told, quality education can’t be free. I’m always ‘yimu-ing’ politicians who promise free education. It can’t b sustained in our part of the world.

  5. Billionaire in grace

    October 5, 2016 at 7:21 am

    @Imali thank you for the insight informations. Myself i was there in Braamfontein yesterday and noticed the police cars which were all over. But with the weak financial situation in South Africa i think students might need to put the protest to rest now until the financial situation of SA get back to its feets.

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