#FeesMustFall Reloaded: Students and Police Exchange Rocks and Rubber Bullets


Students and police at different institutes all over the country seem to be clashing left, right and center as the #FeesMustFall protests continue.

From buses being set alight by protesting Wits University students in Braamfontein to the furniture being set alight outside Malherbe Res in UKZN to university buildings being burned down by CPUT students in Bellville and Cape Town campuses, students are fighting to be heard as they want #FreeEducationNow for all.

The bus that was set alight by protesting Wits University students in Braamfoetien was stopped by the students and according to the Eyewitness News, students started hurling stones at the vehicle. The police nyala was seen driving up and down Jorissen Street in Johannesburg trying to disperse the crowd while firing rubber bullets at these students.

The protesting Wits University students blocked roads in Braamfontein on Monday 10th October which then forced shop owners and banks to shut down.

According to Eyewitness News one shop owner said, “I closed my shop because I don’t want to take any risks. People are throwing stones; police are shooting, but we are on the side of the students. We don’t want the tuition fees to be higher.”

#FeesMustFall Protests Leads to Injuries and Arrests:

The police have responded and dispersed the crowds using tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons at student protestors. While all this is happening, people are getting injured. From students to professors, priests and policemen it seems everyone just seems to get caught in the crossfire.

On Monday 10th October in Johannesburg, one person has been taken to hospital after sustaining injuries from a rubber bullet shot during the protests at Wits University’s Braamfontein campus. A professors in the International Relations department at Wits University was also injured during clashes between students and police.

At the same time, a priest was caught in the crossfire and was rushed to hospital. Father Graeme Pugin of the Holy Trinity Church in Braamfontein was caught in clashes between police and student protestors and was hit by a rubber bullet.

Graham was injured after intervening between police and protesting students from Wits University.

Meanwhile, in the Western Cape, #FeesMustFall student protesters locked two security guards in a building at the CPUT Bellville campus before setting fire to it early Wednesday morning, 12th October. Protesting students face charges of attempted murder, but it has been reported that one of the guards has passed away.

The police had originally opened cases of attempted murder following the students’ actions but according to The South African report, since one of the security guards died of his injuries, it is seen as murder.

Several students have been injured and dozens arrested throughout the country since the protests started again weeks ago.

However, some students decided to protest in a different way that is less violent. Three female students protested topless to quell the violence at Wits University. They stripped off their tops and bras outside the Great Hall and demanded that police officers stop firing rubber bullets and stun grenades at demonstrators.

Academic Programme Continues Despite Violence:

As the debate on free education engulfs South African academic institutions one finds that despite all the violence and havoc between authorities and students protestors, the Wits University senior executive team says it will continue with its academic programme.

“We have a strenuous week ahead, but we are determined to get the full academic programme back on track,” it said in a statement. Following the disruption of some lectures, protesters gathered in front of the Great Hall and threw rocks at private security.

The university said that despite violence, many classes continued at the institution. “Despite these challenges, the deans have confirmed that just over half of all lectures went ahead today across campuses.”

Comments from leaders and celebrities:

Leaders and celebrities have strongly spoken out about the issues around #FeesMustFall and police force used against students.

“It’s really hard to sit and watch how the students are being assaulted by the police. We should all get involved… it is now everyone’s fight,” said DJ Black Coffee.

“Universities have been seriously and systemically underfunded in South Africa. There is no doubt that the state has failed in this regard and that there needs, as a matter of urgency, to be a significant increase in university funding.” – Richard Pithouse; Rhodes University Professor.

While other celebrities and leaders don’t seem to think the same, “This #FeesMustFall thing, I don’t want to be like judgmental… but for me it is quite disturbing because, at the end of the day, when you go out there and you skip classes and do all those crazy stuff people are doing, you’re wasting your time,” Caster Semenya told Sowetan.

“The #FeesMustFall protests are no longer about fees, but about power and control. And they are as much a threat to the future as apartheid once was,” said Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.

#FeesMustFall Could Help with Student Debt and over-indebtedness?

With all the chaos of the #FeesMustFall campaign, we found that in recent National Debt Advisors case studies, millennial debt is growing and it is a worrying aspect that the new generation face. Milliennials are faced with pressures of not only getting into varsity and being able to pay for it, but searching for employment, student loans, pulling them down and let’s not forget the growing pressures to supporting their immediate families.

The scariest trait for the younger generation is the unbelievable amount of debt young people find themselves in before getting their foot in the door and secure a good job.

The hottest topic that surrounds the #FeesMustFall movement is a huge amount of inequality and lack of support for students trying to gain their tertiary degrees. The empty promises that were given by the ANC; saying there would be free tertiary education by 2013 has caused the students to take to the streets and fight for their free tertiary education.

“By making college unaffordable and student loans unbearable, we risk deterring our best and brightest from pursing higher education and securing a good paying job.”

– Mark Pocan

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