S African stu­dents, po­lice clash again

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

South African stu­dent pro­test­ers and po­lice clashed in re­newed vi­o­lence in Jo­han­nes­burg yes­ter­day as at­tempts to re-open Wits Univer­sity de­scended into run­ning bat­tles on cam­pus. Pro­test­ers throw­ing rocks were dis­persed by riot po­lice us­ing tear gas, rub­ber bul­lets and stun grenades as pres­sure ratch­ets up on cam­puses across the coun­try over tu­ition fees. Un­rest has erupted reg­u­larly at South African uni­ver­si­ties in re­cent months, with Wits and other in­sti­tu­tions forced to close tem­po­rar­ily over the last three weeks. “The stu­dents started throw­ing size­able rocks that could have maimed or killed peo­ple,” Wits said in a state­ment after try­ing to re-open yes­ter­day. “Po­lice dis­persed the crowd us­ing stun grenades, tear gas and wa­ter can­nons. Two arrests were made this morn­ing and some mi­nor in­juries have been re­ported.”

The vi­o­lence, which also in­volved cam­pus se­cu­rity guards, erupted out­side Wits’ Great Hall au­di­to­rium, the scene of sev­eral re­cent clashes. Stu­dent lead­ers said they had warned au­thor­i­ties that re­sum­ing lec­tures yes­ter­day would re­sult in an­other bout of clashes. “We pleaded with the coun­cil of the univer­sity in the early hours of this morn­ing to close down the aca­demic pro­gram and call off the po­lice,” Wits stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fasiha Has­san told ENCA news. “If they had called off po­lice, we wouldn’t be in this sit­u­a­tion. There was no need for them to open fire.”

Other uni­ver­si­ties hit

Univer­sity tu­ition fees have be­come a flash­point for protests in South Africa, which has strug­gled to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion, jobs and hous­ing for many poor black peo­ple since the end of apartheid in 1994. The govern­ment has vowed to help all stu­dents from poorer fam­i­lies over the fees, but the pro­test­ers are de­mand­ing free ed­u­ca­tion. “Es­sen­tially what they are say­ing is if there is no free ed­u­ca­tion, there should be no ed­u­ca­tion at all,” Wits rec­tor Adam Habib said last week, adding that the whole 2016 aca­demic year could be lost.

Univer­sity au­thor­i­ties say many stu­dents want to re­turn to class and that the protests do not rep­re­sent the ma­jor­ity of un­der­grad­u­ates. Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has said he sup­ports in­tro­duc­ing free ed­u­ca­tion, but has con­demned pro­test­ers who forced uni­ver­si­ties to shut down or who van­dalised cam­puses. Yes­ter­day, demon­stra­tions were also re­ported on cam­puses in Pre­to­ria, Bloem­fontein and Pi­eter­mar­itzburg. Uni­ver­si­ties in Pre­to­ria, Cape Town and Dur­ban have also been hit by protests and clo­sures. Last year, stu­dents-many of them so-called “born frees” who grew up after apartheid-staged a se­ries of huge demon­stra­tions which forced the govern­ment to aban­don planned fee hikes for 2016. — AFP

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