22 Oct 2015

Student protests turn violent in South Africa

5:38 pm on 22 October 2015

Hundreds of South African students protesting a rise in student fees have clashed with police during a march to parliament in Cape Town.

Students from the University of Cape Town stand facing members of the South African Police Services after they forced their way into the South African Parliament in Cape Town on October 21, 2015.

Students from the University of Cape Town face police officers during the protest on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Police fired stun grenades as the protesters tried to force their way into the parliamentary complex.

Proposed tuition fee hikes of between 10 percent and 12 percent have sparked protests at universities across the country.

Students have complained that higher fees may exclude poorer black students.

Inside parliament, a budget speech by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was temporarily halted as members of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) chanted "Fees must fall" - a slogan borrowed from the students.

Scuffles broke out as parliamentary security guards were called in to forcibly remove the EFF members.

At that point, hundreds of students demanding the government scrap the planned tuition hike stormed the parliament compound.

"We were pushed back by police with force. The stun grenade was shot right next to my ear. I still have the buzzing in my ear," said Motheo Lengoasa, a student at the University of Cape Town, as others chanted and sang songs demanding lower fees.

Earlier she had lain prostate on the ground in front of the entrance to the national assembly where Mr Nene was speaking.

"This looks like 1976 all over again," she said, referring to the Soweto uprising where police killed at least 69 students who were protesting plans to teach them in Afrikaans.

Government offer rejected

Student bodies have rejected a government offer to cap tuition fee increases at 6 percent for 2016, and earlier threatened to close all the country's universities as protests over tuition fees spread.

At least 10 institutions have so far been affected, with some closing until the situation is resolved.

BBC correspondents said on Wednesday that the protests seemed to be intensifying as students refused to back down, and there was a heavy police presence at most institutions.

Students have said the proposed fee hike amounts to discrimination in a country where the average income of black families is far less than that of white families.

Protests began at Johannesburg's University of Witwatersrand before spreading to the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, Fort Hare University, the University of the Free State, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

- BBC / Reuters

Demonstrators march through the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on October 21, 2015,

Demonstrators march through the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Students from the University of Cape Town clash with members of the South African Police Services after they forced their way into the South African Parliament in Cape Town on October 21, 2015.

Students from the University of Cape Town try to force their way into the South African Parliament in Cape Town. Photo: AFP

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