South Africa bows to student pressure | Africa | DW | 23.10.2015
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South Africa bows to student pressure

South African President Jacob Zuma has said that there will be no increase in university fees for students in 2016. The students had been protesting for more than a week that they couldn't afford the higher charges.

South African President Jacob Zuma dropped plans for increases in university fees on Friday (23.10.2015) after student protests led to clashes with police who fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas outside government premises in Pretoria.

Some demonstrators tried to force their way towards Union Buildings, the seat of government in South Africa, tearing down a security fence, setting fire to portable toilets and hurling bricks at police lines in chaotic scenes.

Zuma had been due to address the volatile crowd after meeting with student leaders and university officials inside the buildings, but instead he read a short statement at a televised press briefing.

"We agreed that there will be a zero increase of university fees in 2016," he said.

DW's South Africa correspondent Thuso Khumalo said Zuma did not address the crowd directly "and that angered a lot of students."

Zuma said the government understood the difficulty faced by students from poor households, and urged all affected to "allow the process to unfold to find long-term solutions in order to ensure access to education."

Mixed response

Professor Linda Chisholm from the University of Johannesburg, who is a former government advisor on education, told DW the reaction from the students was mixed.

"Some were saying, yes, this is fine, this is what we came there for and so the problem is resolved. For others, this is just one step on the way towards free education for all. So the struggle will continue because not all students will be satisfied with what has been agreed on," she said.

Südafrika Johannesburg Studentenproteste Ausschreitungen Zuma must fall

President Zuma has been under attack for failing to counter inequality in South Africa

Kgotsi Genge, a 22-year-old student at the University of Pretoria, told AFP "the government thinks we are playing, they think it's because we want to run away from school. But we will keep fighting. South Africa needs to invest more in education. This movement is because we are being oppressed."

University fees were set to rise up to 10 percent next year, with a general Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT) currently costing 46,000 rand ($3,400, 3,000 euros).

'Heard their cries'

Zuma's remarks targeted "institutional autonomy" in a reference to universities' right to set their own fees, in an apparent attempt to steer criticism away from the African National Congress (ANC) government.

Campus activism has been increasing this year as students, many of them so-called "born frees" who did not experience the struggle against apartheid, vent their anger over continuing racial inequality.

"We should be having free education," 18-year-old Bongani Shabangu, who is studying education at a Pretoria university, told AP. "Most of us are from poor families."

DW's Thuso Khumalo said that overall "the students were excited that the country and the universities had at least heard their cries for fees to fall."

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