Hundreds of students in demand for free education have clashed with police in renewed violence at South Africa’s top university in Johannesburg after an attempt to reopen following recent unrest.
Police used tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and water cannon on Monday to disperse stone-throwing south africa’s students protesters at Witwatersrand University, also referred to as Wits.
Blade Nzimande, the country’s education minister, appealed for dialogue and condemned the violence, adding that the university’s efforts to run its academic programme were being “held to ransom by disrespectful and irresponsible striking students”.
2 arrests were made and minor injuries were reported, according to a statement by the university authority.“The students started throwing big rocks that could have maimed or killed people,” Wits said in a statement after trying to reopen on Monday.
Monday’s crisis started with protesters moving through mathematics and science buildings, seeking to disrupt classes. Libraries and a large laboratory were empty. Later, there were tense exchanges.
As police helicopters circled, some protesters spilled into city streets. A bus was set ablaze, and thick smoke billowed into the air.
Thato Mokoena, one of the student leaders speaking to Al Jazeera, called on the university management to stop “militarisation” of the campus.
“The university needs to start realising that every day we have police and security, every day we have violence. Every other day when they are not here, everything is OK. So, i feel there should be a de-militarisation of our campuses,” he said.
Student protesters and Police also fought on a campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, the African news agency had reported.
Unrest was reported at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein also.The protests are part of the nationwide Fees must Fall campaign regarding the cost of studying in the country’s universities, which are prohibitory for many black students.
Student protests last year forced President Jacob Zuma to rule out fee increases for 2016.
The students’ demand for free education has received backing from the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters, the 3 largest party in parliament.
But university authorities have warned that fee cuts may damage academic standards.
While the government also said it will cover 2017 fee increases for poor students despite funding challenges, protesters argue that the country must address economic inequities in the education system that date from the country’s former system of racial separation referred to as apartheid.
“We need to know that models (for free education) are going to be piloted and tested in 2017,” followed by implementation in 2018, said Fasiha Hassan, a law student and protest leader at Wits
Source: Aljazeera News