Students from the University of the Witwatersrand continued protesting against rising university fees on Wednesday, with similar protests taking place across the country.
Having spent the morning listening to public lectures, students began gathering ahead of protest action that was meant to start at 13:00.
Buses dropped students off at the Wits Medical School on York Road in the early afternoon – the site where student protests began on Tuesday before shifting to the university’s main campus.
However, it appeared that only a few students arrived, with a decision taken to head to the university’s education campus.
Once they arrived, students were seen holding placards and sticks, with the some reading “Blade must fall”, in reference to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.
Academic staff members and parents were also present in solidarity, with no police in the vicinity.
Later, students sat and listened as leaders addressed them.
Former Wits student representative council president Mcebo Dlamini, who was stripped of his position after comparing all white people to Hitler, told the crowd that if Wits thought they had the power, they were mistaken.
“Power is centred here,” he told the crowd.
However, it began raining on Wednesday afternoon, causing some confusion among those assembled about what to do.
This did not stop them, however, as students regained their purpose and marched peacefully into Braamfontein as Johannesburg metro police and SAPS controlled traffic.
Students ‘freaking out’ about exams
On Tuesday, following a marathon meeting in Cape Town, Nzimande and university vice chancellors agreed to cap fee increases for 2016 at 6%. However, this was widely rejected by students on campuses around the country, who claimed even 6% was too much, and demanded a 0% increase.
Prior to leaving campus, students met where they posted questions to student leaders about looming exams, which were expected to begin in 10 days.
At the meeting, students said they were “freaking out” about exams, and later asked the media to leave so they could have an internal meeting.
On a programme, titled “WITSFEESMUSTFALL DAY 7”, studies had been penciled in between 16:00 and 18:00, when supper would take place.
At 20:00, an open mic session had been scheduled with comedians and poets in support of the student protest. The likes of Loyiso Gola, Simmi Areff and Chris Higgins were expected to perform.
The protests flared up last week after students at Wits opposed a 10.5% fee increase for the 2016 academic year.
Police fire rubber bullets
Protests at Wits spread to other campuses across South Africa, including the University of Cape Town (UCT), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), the University of the Western Cape, Stellenbosch University, Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth, the University of Pretoria, the University of Fort Hare, the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The University of the Free State closed all three of its campuses on Wednesday, with varsity management and the student representative council meeting on Tuesday to discuss next year’s fees.
At NMMU, police fired rubber bullets at protesting students throwing stones at the institution on Wednesday, according to police spokesperson Brigadier Marinda Mills.
She said no one was arrested or injured.
In Cape Town, hundreds of UCT and CPUT students stormed the Parliament precinct during Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s mid-term budget speech, after thousands of students had met at the Parliament gates.
It took stun grenades and teargas from police to eventually push the students back, in scene broadcast live on South African television.