WATCH | Students, fees and protests: How another round of Fees Must Fall protests were ignited

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  • The latest wave of Fees Must Fall protests were ignited by Wits University students earlier this year.
  • The students took the streets to protest for free education and debt erasure.
  • While tensions have simmered, join News24 as we look back at how it all started.

Students, protests, and the fight for free education were thrust back into the spotlight in recent weeks.  

In March, the focus fell on protests at Wits University in Johannesburg when students took to the streets to fight for free and quality education.

Other demands included allowing all students to register despite financial debt and the erasure of historical debt. 

PICS | DUT students stone police vehicles in protest over registration

During a press briefing, the Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande, said his department could not afford to write off student debt because their budget had been cut by R24.6 billion.

Students in Braamfontein stage a sit-in on Stiemen
Students in Braamfontein stage a sit-in on Stiemens street on 10 March 2021 in renewed fee protests.

In a previous interview with News24, Wits SRC president, Mpendulo Mfeka, said the only thing that would bring an end to the protests, "... is the declaration of free quality, decolonised education and the removal of all colonial statues in our country".

A tragic turn

The protests, while initially peaceful, took a tragic turn when a passer-by Mthokozisi Ntumba was shot dead, allegedly by police dispersing students.

The days following Ntumba's death were tense, and student protests in central Johannesburg intensified.

READ | Police deny firing live shots at protesters as student demonstrations flare up again

Students marched to the ANC headquarters at Luthuli House, where they delivered their memorandum of demands – ultimately threatening a nationwide shutdown.

A middle ground

Tension began to simmer following continued conversations between student leaders, university management, and national government.

Students protest in Braamfontein on 11 March 2021
Students protest in Braamfontein on 11 March 2021 against financial exclusion.

University management later agreed to make concessions that would allow students to register despite their financial standings with the university.

How did we get here?

Now that the waters have calmed and police are investigating the death of Ntumba, News24 takes a look back on the events as they unfolded. 

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