South African President Jacob Zuma agrees to student’s core demand for 0% fee increase

Students gather outside the UnionBuildings in Pretoria. Picture: Eyewitness News

Students gather outside the UnionBuildings in Pretoria. Picture: Eyewitness News

After a tense showdown with tens of thousands of students protesting fee increases, President Jacob Zuma gave in today to the student’s central demand of no increase in students fees. The decision was made at a meeting with university management and student representatives at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

However, students were not willing to allow negotiations behind closed doors to decide their future, and gathered outside Government buildings across the country. As students broke into the grounds of the Union Buildings, demanding to be let into the venue where negotiations were taking place, police used razor wire, stun grenades and water cannon to hold them back.

Students responded by throwing rocks and starting fires. There were claims that the gathering had been hijacked by the ANC-aligned SASCO student organisation, who tried to create an intimidating environment.

Zuma failed to address the students, who were not informed of the decision. Clashes continued for sometime. Some students were injured, and a police car was overturned. Police in armoured vehicles fired rubber bullets at students to get them to disperse.

When word of the decision spread, there was spontaneous celebration at demonstrations across the country.

Although the core demand of no fee increases has been met with surprising speed, the central problem of a lack of access to decent education and employment prospects remains. The students have organised remarkably well, winning plaudits for their management of the intersectional complexities of organising in South Africa. Young women emerged as students leaders, and students from all backgrounds have taken part in the protests.

There were solidarity actions for #FeesMustFall across the world, including a march on the South African High Commission in London.

#FeesMustFall solidarity demo held in London

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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