Both the EFF Students Command and the student representative council of Wits University say they have been consistent in their call for free tertiary education for all.
However, at the start of the #FeesMustFall campaign last year, students were mainly calling for a zero percent tuition fee increase, which government granted for 2016 following violent student protests.
Yesterday, Students Command leader Mpho Morolane said when they met with President Jacob Zuma last year they had asked what would happen in 2017 regarding fees, but they did not get a response.
“Students had to start somewhere with this issue of fees and therefore it is disingenuous for people to say we never called for free education for all,” he said.
Commenting on the protest action, Morolane strongly believed that if all student bodies mobilised and planned together, the struggle for free education would gain even more momentum.
He said they had been meeting with various student organisations to map the way forward.
“The issue around fees is a national issue and we need to come up with clear plans on how to proceed. All students have to sing with one voice.
“We reiterate that we want free education for all, including the rich, because we want to avoid a situation where we will see different queues for university cafeterias and study material as this perpetuates segregation,” he said.
The secretary general of the Wits SRC, Fasiha Hassan, also said the call for free education for all had always been on the agenda.
“The tuition fee issue was just a short-term plan and we, as students, are saying we cannot every year take to the streets to protest over the same issue.
“What we are also saying with free education is that, in its first stages, let students who need the most help be exempted first,” she said.
With Wits having suspended all academic activity for the remainder of this week, Hassan said they would use this time to discuss the way forward.
“We cannot rule out the possibility of marches to Luthuli House [ANC headquarters] and to the Union Buildings but no decision has been taken yet,” she added.
Meanwhile, staff at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) were asked to leave the main campus premises just before lunch yesterday.
“We have now learnt that the momentum is escalating among students. We thus advise staff to terminate classes and vacate the university.
“All other university activities are suspended with immediate effect,” a statement from the university read.
Not far from VUT, the University of North West Vanderbjilpark campus also closed for the rest of yesterday.
The University of Pretoria also suspended all academic activities until further notice, requesting that all students leave campus.