'We stand in solidarity' - organisations condemn 'police brutality' at Wits protest

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  • Education organisations have condemned the police's use of force during protests by Wits University students.
  • A man was shot and killed during a protest on Wednesday.
  • The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education will summon the university and student representatives to discuss the protests. 

The South African Union of Students (SAUS) has condemned police "brutality and violence" during student protests in Braamfontein.

"The South African Union of Students condemns the brutality and violence by (SAPS) … in Braamfontein who, through the use of live ammunition and against unarmed students, have claimed the life of a bystander," the organisation said in a statement.

Students have been protesting against financial exclusion from tertiary education institutions.

READ | Cabinet saddened by death of Mthokozisi Ntumba during Wits protests

During a protest on Wednesday, a man was shot dead. At the time, he was leaving a local clinic.

Equal Education has also issued a statement, saying: "We strongly condemn police brutality. We stand in solidarity with the struggle by students for a free, quality, equal and decolonised education system."

The organisation added that students should be allowed to register at no cost.

"The doors of higher learning continue to remain closed for poor and working-class children, and it is despicable that, when these students take to the streets to advocate for equal opportunities, the response from the state is to shoot to kill."

'Maximum restraint'

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology said it regretted the loss of life. 

Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane said: "Every South African, including the students, has a democratic right enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic, to engage in protest. However, this right should be expressed in a peaceful manner and should also respect other people's rights.

"We wish to call on our law enforcement agencies to exercise maximum restraint in managing public protests and to refrain from the use of excessive force."

The protest was held in in response to challenges experienced by students during the registration process when universities reopened for the 2021 academic year, the committee noted.

"The difficulties experienced by the missing middle students regarding financial exclusions due to outstanding debt is also at the heart of the current protests at Wits [University]," Mapulane said.

"The committee has resolved to summon Wits University and student leadership to appear before the committee in the coming week in order to have a conversation around the possible solutions to the current challenges faced by students."

However, the SAUS has vowed to call a national shutdown if Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande does not clear the historical debt of all students to allow student registration, ensure NSFAS funding for first-time students, and agree to a 0% fee increases for the 2021 academic year.

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