Johannesburg – The mayhem at universities escalated on Wednesday with the universities of Limpopo and Rhodes the latest to experience violent clashes.
Some fee-free education activists said they want whoever is against their campaign, including Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande, to “fall” along with the fees. In addition, #OutsourcingMustFall, #FeesMustFall and #Occupy4FreeEducation movements on Wednesday called for Nzimande and the entire cabinet to resign.
“If the ANC and its government wants to protect the fees, then it must fall with these fees. If the government says it cannot afford free education, young people cannot afford to be led by the ANC,” said student activist Vusi Mahlangu.
He was speaking during a joint media briefing by the movements at Church Square in Pretoria.At the University of Johannesburg, protesting students and security guards clashed on the campus. Media was barred from entering the campus but yells and terrified screams from students could be heard with several managing to escape out of the campus with minor injuries. Several students were pepper-sprayed and others were seen with cuts and bruises. Some students were injured.
See more: PICS: Students pepper-sprayed at UJ
However, management said that normal programmes would continue, despite violence on Wednesday. It said it was only a minority of violent students taking part in the protests.
UJ vice-chancellor and Principal Professor Ihron Rensburg warned that all those instigating and participating in criminal activities would be dealt with severely and face the full might of the law.
To ensure that staff and students are safe, Rensburg said the university has hired extra security guards.
The University of Limpopo decided to take the safe route after serious clashes between police and students. The institution has now been closed indefinitely.
At Wits University, hundreds of students marched peacefully to the Chamber of Mines in the Joburg CBD. Former SRC President Mcebo Dlamini addressed the crowd, calling on the Chamber of Mines to assist in funding free education “because the black government is saying there is no funding”.
Wits was on Thursday expected to conduct a poll with students to find out whether they want classes to continue or protest.
At Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, at least 10 students were arrested for contravening a court interdict that bars them from protesting and for malicious damage to property. The protesters were dragged and shot at by police officials, in what some students described as “police brutality”. Rhodes has been closed since last week.
In Tshwane, University of Pretoria management was labelled by students as agents of white monopoly capital who were hell-bent on protecting the elitist government.
This was during a heated debate on the feasibility of free education attended by parents, professionals, staff, #FeesMustFall movement and lecturers at Tuks.
In KwaZulu-Natal, Durban University of Technology management tried to dispel rumours that campuses will be shut down next week. Management was on Wednesday meeting with the SRC and National Student Financial Aid Scheme representatives to try to deal with students pleas for free education.
Read more: DUT students clash with cops
But there was an uneasy calm at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said operations at all campuses went without a hitch on Wednesday, following protests that included students throwing faeces in an exam venue.
However, even the country’s newest universities – Mpumalanga and Sol Plaatjie in Kimberley, Northern Cape – have joined in protests.
Meanwhile, North West University’s Vaal and Mmabatho campuses have been closed until next week.
The University of Cape Town was also forced to close down operations.
UCT vice-chancellor Dr Max Price held a press conference on Wednesday at the Protea Hotel to give an update on UCT’s handling of the #Fees2017 movement and how it has affected their academic year.
As the protests over fee increases spread on Wednesday, lobby group Afriforum now wants to haul the students who vandalise and burn campus properties to face the law. – Additional reporting by Virgilatte Gwangwa