Protesting students plan to disrupt mini budget

2015-10-21 11:57
Protesting UCT students (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Protesting UCT students (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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WATCH: Police fire rubber bullets, teargas to disperse protesting NMMU students

2015-10-21 09:51

NMMU students were shot at by police with rubber bullets and teargas during the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University protest against tuition fee increases. WARNING: Explicit languageWATCH

Cape Town - Protesting University of Cape Town (UCT) students have reportedly started making their way to Parliament ahead of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene's mid-term budget speech on Wednesday.

Pam Dhlamini, a student leader among protesters, told News24 that protesters planned to go to Parliament in the early afternoon to disrupt Nene's speech.

They have demanded a few Jammie Shuttle buses to take them there, stating they needed answers from Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

Nene was expected to make his speech from 14:00.

'Voetsek'

Earlier, students were seen running on the road linking the varsity's lower, middle and upper campuses.

At one point, a bakkie carrying garden equipment with three occupants sought to get past protesting students.

However, students were hitting the bonnet of the vehicle, and shouted "Voetsek".

Protesting student Athabile Nonxuba told News24 that there were exams happening at UCT, but no exams should be held, with protesting students intending on disrupting any sittings if necessary.

A group of protesters also went to the UCT radio offices on upper campus, claiming the station had been posting racist and misogynistic videos, and had refused to take them down, insisting it was news.

They banged on the doors but no one answered.

The protests flared up after students at the University of the Witwatersrand last week protested against a 10.5% fee increase for the 2016 academic year.

The Wits protests sparked protests on campuses across South Africa, including Stellenbosch University, Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth, the University of Pretoria, the University of Fort Hare, and the Tshwane University of Technology.

Protests were also expected to take place at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and the University of the Western Cape.

The University of the Free State closed all three of its campuses on Wednesday, with varsity management and the student representative council meeting on Tuesday to discuss next year's fees.

At NMMU, police fired rubber bullets at protesting students throwing stones at the institution on Wednesday, according to police spokesperson Brigadier Mardinda Mills.

She said no one was arrested or injured.

Nationwide mass action

The SA Students Congress has called on all students to embark on a nationwide mass action on Wednesday against fee increments until student demands were met.

On Tuesday, protesting students rejected a proposed 6% cap on university fee hikes for 2016 and have demanded a 0% increase.

The revised increase was agreed on by Nzimande and vice chancellors, ahead of the protests taking place on Wednesday.

"We are saying we want zero fee increases. We don't want this 6% cap they are talking about. We are continuing with our fight for free education," Sthembiso Ndlovu, the deputy chair of the South African Students Congress in Gauteng, told News24 on Tuesday.

He vowed earlier that all institutions of higher learning in the country would be shut down on Wednesday.

At the University of Pretoria, one of the organisers of the @UPrising movement told News24 the group was expecting Nzimande to "come up with something like this".

"On sunny days caps are needed, but there are clouds hanging over the country. It's going to rain and, unfortunately, we don't want caps. We want free education," said the organiser, who did not want to be named.

"We don't want to feel like we are being compensated or done a favour by offering caps. We want 0% increase because we know students are struggling to cope with the current fees and any increase will be a burden on them. Maybe when it's sunny outside we will accept the caps but not now."

At the University of Cape Town, protesters said a 6% increase was too much and that Nzimande must be "crazy".

Nonxuba said at the time there were two demands: fees had to fall and there had to be no more outsourcing of work to contractors.

'Sympathetic'

Nzimande told reporters in Cape Town, after a meeting with vice chancellors from different universities, that they were "all sympathetic with the high cost of university education".

"In all conflict situations there is the necessity to compromise. No party gets 100% of what it wants.

"We really urge students to seriously consider the compromise… to seriously take this offer in the interests of the [higher education] system now that examinations are around the corner. We are already concerned about the possible impact of the lack of [teaching] days."

He said the right to protest and the importance of difference of opinion was recognised, but acts of violence were condemned.

Nzimande said President Jacob Zuma expressed relief that there seemed to be "light at the end of the tunnel".

"It is important that parties find each other so we can stabilise the situation at our universities."

Read more on:    uct  |  cape town  |  mini budget 2015  |  protests  |  university fees

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