South Africa’s president to meet student leaders

Students charged at Cape Town court with public violence after protesters storm parliament on Wednesday

Some of the thousands of students from Wits University in Johannesburg demonstrate during another day of protest against fee increases. Photograph: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

Some of the thousands of students from Wits University in Johannesburg demonstrate during another day of protest against fee increases. Photograph: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

 

South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma is to meet student leaders and university officials today in a bid to end a week of protests over proposed fee increases that started in Johannesburg and spread throughout the country.

Yesterday 29 students were charged at a Cape Town court with public violence after protesters stormed parliament on Wednesday evening during the mid-term budget speech, which prompted police to fire tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.

The “Fees Must Fall” campaign has turned into what many observers say are the largest student protests since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Despite Mr Zuma’s decision to intervene, leaders of the movement say they will shut down third level education entirely until their demands for accessible education for all are met. Thus far tens of thousands of students have managed to shut down some of the country’s most prestigious universities by staging protests, occupying buildings and blocking entrances to the facilities.

Unaffordable

The campaign for affordable education has prompted many white students to stand with their black colleagues, as have numerous academics and African National Congress stalwarts, including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela’s close confidant and friend Ahmed Kathrada.

Earlier this week, government stepped in and offered to cap the fee increase at 6 per cent, but this has been rejected outright.

Initially most of the protests were peaceful, but as tensions increased many protests have become violent, and police in a number of instances have been accused of using excessive force. Yesterday, Ms Madikizela-Mandela said she would stand with students.

“I will be joining my children in protest . . . Let us see if the police will shoot with me in the front line,” she wrote on her Facebook page shortly after police opened fire on students outside parliament on Wednesday.

Thousands of students are expected to march to government buildings today to see the outcome of the negotiations.