Protesting South African students march on union building

South African students march on union building ahead of meeting between President Zuma and Student leaders

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Protester holds a placard during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria.

Thousands of South African students gathered for a march on the government house and union building in Pretoria on Friday, complaining against a rise in university fees.

Student leaders were scheduled to meet with President Jacob Zuma today, alongside university professors at the Student Union Building, to press their case, complaining that the sudden rise in tuition fees is too high for the majority of South Africans. 

"The meeting will discuss the current countrywide impasse between universities and students regarding the proposed annual fee increments," the presidency said.

"Education mustn't be free but it must be affordable," Makungu Sithole, 21, an engineering student said on Friday.

Since the 2009 recession, low growth in the country’s economy has forced the government to cut spending, and there is only a small amount of cash to offer the students in the form of subsidies.

Police clash with students 

Police fired stun grenades at students who set fires outside President Jacob Zuma's offices on Friday, following a week of protests in South Africa. 

On Wednesday, riot police threw stun grenades at hundreds of demonstrating students who occupied the parliament premises in Cape Town, attempting to obstruct the Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene's interim budget reading on the South African economy.

"He's not taking us seriously, we've been here for a while," one student said on television.

The students danced, singing, "We the students dream of free education. We are not afraid of the police, our fight will win."  

"The ANC just talks, we support the ANC but we just don't support the current cabinet. Today is Zuma's day to shine. The children are making a plea, you should listen."  

Thousands of students from Wits and Johannesburg Universities marched through the streets of Johannesburg on Thursday and gathered outside Luthuli House, the headquarters of the ruling ANC party, where they handed over a list of requests to the Secretary General of the party.

The government has provided about 30 billion rand ($2 billion) for the financial year 2015/2016, with 21 billion rand ($1,6 billion) given as subsidies to various universities. The rest is shared between a national bursary for students who are in need and other grants. 

Students protests came a day after South African Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said that the government could no longer afford to provide free education for poor students and each university must cater for its own finances.  

TRTWorld and agencies