Riot police in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, fired stun grenades to disperse a crowd of Wits University students and workers protesting for free education.
What began as a peaceful march from the institution’s main campus through the streets of Braamfontein turned into chaos as hundreds of frantic marchers scattered for cover. But some remained adamant their protest would go on, reconvening at the Wits Theatre entrance.
A second round of stun grenades grenades was released as police moved towards the scattering crowd.
It was unclear if anyone had been injured.
Students have been protesting for free education and against fee increments for 2017 since the announcement by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on Monday that university councils had the prerogative on fee increments for 2017 with a cap of 8%.
Hundreds of Wits University students gathered at the Solomon Mahlangu Hall were preparing to march to Braamfontein on Wednesday afternoon as part of the ongoing #FeesMustFall protest for free education and against fee increments for 2017.
Representatives of least four student organisations, including the South African Union of Students (Saus), the South African Students Congress (Sasco), the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and the EFF Student Command (EFFSC), were poised to lead what organisers called a peaceful march, which was also joined by newly insourced workers at the university. The workers said they were part of the struggle for free education because these were the same students who fought against outsourcing.
Police presence has been heavy in since the early morning as a massive cleanup operation got under way in the debris-strewn campus, and workers could be seen putting up scaffolding as repairs to the numerous broken windows and other infrastructure began.
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At least 30 students from the university were arrested on Tuesday morning after violent protest action followed Monday morning’s announcement by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande that universities would decide for themselves on fee increments for 2017 with a cap of 8%.
Students had earlier planned to march to the Hillbrow Police Station to demand their release. The students were later released on a warning. Student leaders at the meeting urged their colleagues to not be ‘antagonistic’ to authorities for their own safety. They also vowed to cooperate with police.