Protesters, po­lice clash at SA stu­dent demos

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

PROTESTERS at South Africa’s Wits Univer­sity at­tacked po­lice ve­hi­cles with rocks and over­turned another yes­ter­day, as vi­o­lence in na­tion­wide demon­stra­tions over high tu­ition fees es­ca­lated.

Po­lice fired stun grenades, rub­ber bul­lets and tear­gas at hun­dreds of stu­dents who marched through the univer­sity’s cam­pus in Jo­han­nes­burg, per­form­ing the toyi-toyi protest dance made pop­u­lar dur­ing the strug­gle against op­pres­sive white rule.

At least two peo­ple were ar­rested ear­lier when po­lice moved in to en­force a court or­der on pub­lic gath­er­ing at Wits, whose full name is Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand.

Demon­stra­tions over the cost of univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion, which is pro­hib­i­tive for many black stu­dents, have high­lighted frus­tra­tion at en­dur­ing in­equal­i­ties in Africa’s most in­dus­tri­alised coun­try more than two decades af­ter the end of apartheid.

“I am not sure free ed­u­ca­tion is fea­si­ble. And I am wor­ried about at­tacks on other stu­dents. It’s in­flict­ing fear in other stu­dents. It’s not right,” said one fi­nal year law stu­dent, who was not tak­ing part in the protest but did not want to give his name.

The square in front of the main hall on cam­pus was strewn with spent shot­gun shells and rocks af­ter sev­eral skir­mishes be­tween po­lice and protesters.

A po­lice wo­man in riot gear hob­bling from the scene with as­sis­tance from her col­leagues told Reuters she had been hit in the leg with a stone thrown by protesters.

Protests first erupted last year, then sub­sided as the gov­ern­ment froze fee in­creases and set up a com­mis­sion to look into the ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing sys­tem.

The un­rest boiled over again, clos­ing some classes and uni­ver­si­ties, when the com­mis­sion said on Septem­ber 19 that fees would con­tinue to rise, al­beit with an 8 per­cent cap in 2017.

“Fol­low­ing yes­ter­day’s ha­rass­ment of our staff, we have no choice but to de­ploy po­lice around cam­pus,” said univer­sity spokes­woman Shi­rona Pa­tel.

She said the univer­sity, which shut down dur­ing the ear­lier protests, had re­opened on Mon­day, but some stu­dents had forced some of the lec­tur­ers out of their of­fices.

Univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors across South Africa have warned that any fur­ther fee freezes could da­m­age their aca­demic pro­grammes. — Reuters.

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