Student protests erupt in South Africa over push for free college
JOHANNESBURG — South African riot police fought stone-throwing students for a second consecutive day at a university campus on Tuesday amid national calls by demonstrators for free higher education. Protests and demonstrations initially began last fall over proposed tuition increases of as much as 10 and 12 percent, and were reignited last month over the revelation that 2017 fees would increase by another eight percent.
Clashes broke out when students hurled rocks at a central building at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and police fired rubber bullets to disperse them.
Earlier Tuesday, the university said classes had resumed despite attempts by student protesters to disrupt the academic program. On Monday, larger groups of students confronted police and campus security guards, and violence spilled into surrounding city streets.
Student protests have forced the closure of other universities in South Africa and prompted warnings that students might not be able to complete the academic year.
The government says it does not have enough money to provide free higher education and that it will cover fee increases for poor students next year. Protesters, however, say the concession does not go far enough.
“The students at the moment are saying, ‘We cannot stop protesting until government accepts that education must be free with no qualification,’” South African President Jacob Zuma said during a visit to Kenya on Tuesday.
“It will be very difficult to pay, as a government, for a child of a parent who has every means to pay,” Zuma said at a news conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. “We who have the means must support the system for the benefit of the country. That’s what we are saying, that’s our position and that’s what we are engaging the youth on.”
Josphat Kasire/AP contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya.