South African govt demands end to violent student protests

Nine people were arrested in overnight clashes with police in Johannesburg as the violent protests for free tertiary education rages on.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Protesters chant slogans in front of a barricade during a protest demanding free education, at the Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa,October 13,2016

South Africa's government on Saturday called for an immediate end to violent protests by students demanding free education, after nine people were arrested in overnight clashes with police in Johannesburg.

Protests have been raging for weeks at universities across the country, prompting President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday to form a ministerial team to tackle the issue.

Protesters use a mattress as a cover during clashes with police officers, as students demand free education, at the Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark, South of Johannesburg, South Africa, October 13, 2016

"The upsurge of violence and destruction of property associated with student protests are criminal and unwarranted," the government said in a statement.

"Government calls for violent campus protests to stop immediately. Law enforcement agencies are constitutionally bound to act against any perpetrators of criminal acts that are committed during protests within institutions of higher learning. They will be arrested and prosecuted."

Johannesburg Metro Police Department spokesman Wayne Minnaar said a supermarket had been looted and three cars set alight in an area of Johannesburg adjacent to the University of the Witwatersrand, which has been the scene of some of the most violent demonstrations.

The University of the Free State said this week it would shut its main campus in Bloemfontein, 400 km south of Johannesburg, and other satellite campuses until October 28 in response to almost four weeks of student protests.

South African policemen take cover from incoming stones inside their armoured personnel carrier while returning fire to protesting students from the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg during protests in the city center on October 10, 2016.

The government said the protests undermined "the genuine struggles for access to quality higher education, which are supported by government".

The flare-ups over the cost of university education, which is prohibitive for many black students and set to rise by up to 8 percent next year, have highlighted frustration at the inequalities that still endure, more than two decades after the end of apartheid.