More than five stun grenades were fired by police to disperse hundreds of protesting students who were making their way to the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) Education campus.
Hours after police arrested about 30 students, protesters moved from the main campus to the education campus in Parktown, where other students joined them in their protests against fee hikes announced on Monday.
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said it was up to universities to decide their own fee increases for the 2017 academic year, but such hikes could not exceed eight percent.
Ndizmande said the government would assist qualifying students to fund the gap between the 2015 fee and the adjusted 2017 fee at their institution. He said it was estimated the move would cost the government about R2.5 billion.
However, students have rejected the hikes and continue to demand free education at universities. Protests erupted at Wits and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).
While on their knees on Tuesday, protesting students from Wits raised their hands in the air telling the police to leave them alone and let them protest in peace.
“Leave me alone because I’m fighting for my career, and I also want to be employed like you. It’s my right to get education,” said one of the students with tears in his eyes.
They students were addressed by Wits students’ representative council (SRC) leader Nompendulo Mkhatshwa.
Rob Sharman, director of housing and residence at Wits, said the University was sympathetic towards poor students who couldn’t pay their fees.
“Probably universities country wide are delighted that it’s the intention of government to increase the amount of funding available for poor students,” said Sharman.
“It’s unfortunate that when students are unhappy with the outcome of negotiations, they sometimes resort into protests … We always try to protect the rights of students when they engage in peaceful protests.”
Sharman said he couldn’t confirm whether all classes were disrupted by the protest, but he mentioned the university would observe the students and advise them where necessary.
Immediately when students noticed that Sharman was in communication with journalists, they hurled insults at him and stopped the interview.
Earlier in the morning several students were arrested at Wits University this morning after allegedly blocking the entrance to the institution’s Braamfontein campus.
– African News Agency (ANA)