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Africa

S African leader in bid to defuse university fees protest

South African leader Jacob Zuma is to intervene personally in the dispute between universities and students over tuition fees. The announcement came after students clashed with police outside parliament in Cape Town.

South African President Jacob Zuma has announced he will meet student leaders and university managers on Friday (23.10.2015) as a wave of student protests engulf the nation forcing 18 universities to close their doors.

Students say they cannot afford the fee increases planned by universities. Zuma's office said the meeting would take place at government offices in Pretoria.

"Nobody disagrees with the message that students from poor households are facing financial difficulties and possible exclusion," the president said in a government statement.

Phiwe Mahle, a second year law student at Wits University in Johannesburg, said they rejected any increase even if it was below the six percent ceiling announced by the Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande on Tuesday.

"Six percent is still too much because if you are rounding it off, it is closer to ten than to zero," the student said.

Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma is 'to discuss the stalemate with regard to university fee increases'

Banele Khumalo from the University of Johannesburg said students would not tolerate a system that aims to define higher education as a special privilege for the rich.

"Education was supposed to be free since 1994 because that's the greatest investment South Africa could have made and they could still implement it now," he said.

He was referring to the year when white minority rule ended in South Africa and Nelson Mandela elected president.

'Financial exclusion'

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has lent its support to the students' demand for a zero percent increase in fees.

ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe described the increases called for by the universities as an act of financial exclusion that enforces discrimination.

Thirty students were arrested during a protest against fee increases outside parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Hundreds of students forced their way through the gates of the parliament grounds scuffling with police who used stun grenades and tear gas to force them back from the national assembly building.

Ahead of Friday's meeting with student leaders and university managers, Zuma said "it is important we work together to find solution."

One student, Casper Makhanya, who would be the first graduate in his family, expressed confidence in the meeting.

"I expect a lot from Zuma. He should be on our side. As a parent, he should be supporting us, so I think with Zuma meeting them, there will be a solution to this," he said.

Students say their protests will continue until the universities meet their demands.

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