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Student fees protests in South Africa turn violent

Student Protests Turn Violent In South Africa

WT24 Desk

South African police have fired water cannon, tear gas and stun grenades at students who lit fires and threw rocks at officers during protests over university fees, Sky News reports.

The violence erupted as thousands of students demonstrated against a planned hike in tuition fees outside the Union Buildings, the country’s main government complex, in Pretoria.

The students had expected President Jacob Zuma to address them and when it became clear he would not, protesters threw stones at police, who responded with the stun grenades and tear gas.

The students were also setting portable toilets and tyres on fire.  A police helicopter hovered overhead as some students pushed and pulled on a fence preventing them from getting closer to the government offices.

Most of the students were not involved in the violence. The demonstration caps more than a week of protests, some violent, against the fee increases, which were planned for next year. Amid the violence, Mr Zuma met student leaders and university managers at his office.

He later announced that there would be no fee increase for university students in 2016 – a significant concession to their demands.  “The meeting agreed that government needs to lead a process that goes wider than fees, looking at the higher education sector,” said a statement from Mr Zuma’s office.

“On the matter at hand, we agreed that there will be a zero increase of university fees in 2016.  “Government understands the difficulty faced by students from poor households and urges all affected to allow the process to unfold to find long term solutions in order to ensure access to education by our students.”

But the announcement did not satisfy many student protesters.  Troy Mathebula, a student leader who attended the meeting with Mr Zuma, said: “What’s going to happen in 2017? We have to come up with a solution that’s going to cover us for the next many years.

“We’re not happy about it.”  Bongani Shabangu, an 18-year-old studying education at a Pretoria university, said: “We should be having free education.  “Most of us are from poor families.”  Many students say the government is not doing enough to support university students and their families who are struggling to pay bills.

A student protest outside the parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday turned violent, with 30 demonstrators arrested.

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