#FeesMustFall: From negotiations to rubber bullets

2015-10-23 17:35

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As the #FeesMustFall movement gained momentum at tertiary institutions across the country, students, the media and the government were readying themselves for what they knew was going to be a huge day for South Africa as thousands of people descended on the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The protest saw thousands of students from various universities come together at the country's seat of power. They were petitioning the government for free tertiary education. But what started out as a peaceful protest turned nasty after President Jacob Zuma's announcement that university fees would rise by 0% in 2016.

A group of agitators, possibly not even students, confronted police by a fence erected ahead of the protest, resulting in the police resorting to stun grenades, tear gas and eventually rubber bullets, and police in a nyala chased students on the south lawns of the Union Buildings and surrounding streets.

City Press' journalists Lerato Sejake, Xolani Mbanjwa and Poloko Tau were there. This is how the day unfolded in Tweets.

For most people the day started just after 9am, with the presidency welcoming the protesters:

Journalist Xolani Mbanjwa was in Hatfield, Pretoria, where Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe was due to address the media about a Cabinet meeting regarding the #FeesMustFall movement as well as the students' grievances:

The government acknowledged the grievances of the students and promised that the matter was receiving attention. Radebe said that the government was supporting 45 000 poor and academically deserving students this year. He added that President Jacob Zuma would address the nation later on in the day, because it was "of national importance".

Meanwhile, Lerato Sejake was at the Union Buildings, and reported that by 11am quite a large crowd had assembled.

Just after 1pm, protesters were photographed making a hole in the fence. Soon after that a water cannon was used to disperse the crowd. When that did not work police used stun grenades.

By 1.30pm a common thread was making its way across Twitter:

2pm, and the police started using teargas after the stun grenades proved ineffective at dispersing the crowd.

Newsbroke that Zuma would be addressing the nation at 2.45pm.

He announced that there would not be an increase in tuition fees and a host of other issues, including free education, would be followed up in the long term.

Students who had left the Union Buildings by now had taken to the streets of Pretoria.

Students were not happy that Zuma did not come to address them, and by 3.30pm chaos was breaking out at the Union Buildings.

Protesters torched another toilet on the Union Buildings grounds amid some more teargas, as well as the introduction of rubber bullets. Sirens were ringing out and a helicopter hovered overhead.

At 4.30pm, Lerato Sejake posted this tweet:

It wasn't just protesters and students who were injured. A News24 journalist was also caught in the crossfire.

Most of the protesters were dispersing by 5pm, deeming it unsafe to hang around much longer. Students who spoke to News24 after the 0% announcement felt it was not a victory, merely the first step in a long process of reforming South Africa's higher education system.

- Additional reporting from News24 journalists

Read more on:    feesmustfall  |  jacob ­zuma  |  union buildings  |  higher education

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