The South African government decided that when confronted with the inflation, the best solution would be to increase the 2016 university tuition fee by up to 11.5 percent.
It all started with the budget speech by Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene in which the proposed tuition hike was mentioned. Immediately, the students of Witwatersrand organised a protest, calling out against such a proposal. Seven other universities, among which the University of Cape Town, have joined in the protests.
For most of them, the way authorities–especially the Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande–have dealt with the issue shows that their government does not care for them. According to ANC Youth League President Collen Maine, the widespread protests could have been avoided.
“If the minister cared enough, he would have dealt with these issues just after Wits because this was an indication that more was coming,” Maine said. However, nothing was done.
At least, nothing that would satisfy the protesters. The government instead decided to respond with violence by sending out the police. At least 30 students were arrested and stun grenades, as well as tear gas, were used to disperse the protesters. So far to no avail! The protests continue.
The students are simply calling for the scraping of the fee hike and demanding a free quality education. Mr Nzimande, in a statement Monday, acknowledged that “university education is expensive” and that “something needed to be done.” What that “something” is, nobody knows, especially since the students have swept aside the proposed reduction of the fee to 6 percent.
These protests, however, go beyond the simple case of tuition fees. This is about the betterment of South African society for the next generation, of both Blacks and Whites.
While Apartheid has officially ended, Blacks in South Africa still lag behind. In the new, rainbow nation that is South Africa, these proposed fee increases will deeply affect black students who struggle already to afford the tuition fee as it stands.
But the protests are also very much about a deeper discontent at the dealings of the Zuma administration who for many has not done anything to improve the lives of Black South Africans. For these students, it is even more of a slap in the face when the Higher Education Minister says that the issue of the proposed hike won’t be resolved until the economy gets better.
So how was the state of the economy then when Jacob Zuma was spending more than £13 million of taxpayers’ money for renovations on his home? That is the question many are asking themselves.
Meanwhile, the president has planned to meet student leaders and university managers this Friday for talks. The protests have also sparked solidarity in the hearts of others.
Winnie Mandela, the ex-wife of President Nelson Mandela has mentioned on social media networks that she will be joining the protesters. There will also be march in London in support of the #FeeMustFall protests.