AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
THE South African government and tertiary institutions are battling waves of student protests, over the financial exclusion of those who cannot afford fees.
Over 24 students were arrested yesterday as protests that started in Johannesburg, spread to Pretoria, Free State and Cape Town.
The South African police have been heavily criticised for their heavy-handedness after a bystander was shot dead after he was caught in the middle of rubber bullets fired on protesting students.
SA President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday offered his condolences to the family of Mthokozisi Ntumba, a father of three and civil servant, who was shot after a visit to a clinic near the University of Witwatersrand, where the protests started. Ramaphosa condemned the action of the police as overreach.
Ramaphosa promised that the government would not abandon students who cannot afford fees.
“We will not abandon our students, we will fund their education because it is their right. They have a right to education and our government, much as we are facing enormous difficulties and challenges, we will continue to find solutions because funding education is an investment, we are investing in the future of South Africa,” he said during at the conclusion of the debate on his address to the National House of Traditional Leaders.
Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the home of Ntumba (35) and later described the action of the police as unnecessary. “Someone just went crazy,” he said, adding that Ntumba’s death was being investigated by the Independent Police Investigations Directorate.
Yesterday protesting students marched to the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg where they handed a memorandum to ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. The ANC is expected to meet Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande today to find ways of resolving protest action which threatens to ruin the start of the 2021 academic year.
Nzimande yesterday said the government would release more funding and prioritise funding for deserving first year students.
He said the National Students Financial Aid Scheme would continue funding all existing recipients, who have met requirements for the 2021 year.
Protesting students last night held a candle-lit vigil at the spot in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, where Ntumba died.