#FeesMustFall takes fight to Union Buildings

The streets of Pretoria slipped into a war zone on Friday as police opened fire on students who tried to storm the Union Buildings when President Jacob Zuma would not show up to address them.

The students’ protest had already been turbulent before they tried to gain entry. This group was gathered at stairways leading straight into the building after collapsing a fence.

Police had been trying to put out fires started by students, and threw tear gas into groups of students who were throwing them with stones.

Police charged at the students with rubber bullet ammunition in a clear bid to push them out completely out of the lawns of building.

A number of students were injured with rubber bullets.


It turned into running battles between the police and students. Students charged back at police throwing stones. A police van lay overturned near the Union Buildings and its windows shattered.

“This is bad, really bad. This gun is pointing right at us,” said a female student taking cover with a group at a gate of a residential building on Church Street.

After being driven out of the Union Buildings, students took their protest to the streets. This forced shops near the building to shut.

The glass window of a bottle store was shattered, and expensive alcohol and other drinks were looted.

What was expected to be a peaceful march to the Union Buildings against an increase in university fees and supported by thousands turned into a turbulent protest. 

Students and supportive members of society had earlier marched from different parts of Pretoria peacefully for the #FeesMustFall campaign.

Dr Andrew Bartlett, chairperson of the Gauteng South African Council of Churches, said he turned up in support of the campaign and found the chaos sad.

“It’s sad that it’s becoming violent because it gives the government an excuse to say ‘well, we can’t talk to undisciplined people’. You see as soon as people become undisciplined it provokes the police to do things that they shouldn’t do, for example this truck that just drove into the crowd,” he referred to a police water cannon truck.

“I think this was very irresponsible from the police. I can understand that they came here to kill the fire, but suddenly just charging into the crowd, I didn’t like that.”

Students got more agitated when, after about two hours of waiting, Zuma would not come out to address them on the agreement he had reached with university vice-chancellors.

Zuma met the vice-chancellors and student leaders to discus students’ demands that institutions should not increase fees for 2016. An agreement was reached in this meeting that fees won’t be increased next year.

Ntuthuko Makhombothi, president of the ANC-aligned South African Students’ Congress, had earlier told students Zuma would come down address them. He urged them to move to the lawns to allow this.

Students chanted: “Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?” They waited at the stairways for almost two hours for Zuma, but the president did not emerge.

Mabina Zikho Leshabane, leader of the Socialist Youth Movement at the Tshwane of University of Technology, told the M&G Zuma should have come to address students.

“Zuma is scared to come address us. Instead of coming to us he sends police to shoot us. This country is going to be ungovernable soon if this is how the government conducts itself.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

TUT: Where anger, protests and disruption are the norm

The M&G gets management's perspective on the growing frustrations students experience at being academically excluded due to a lack of funds.

How student power gave workers hope

Support staff are finally being brought in-house, thanks to young idealists fighting for their rights.

Trough runneth over for spendthrift Setas

The pot is empty for university subsidies, but millions are being squandered in the vocational sector.

EFF calls for removal of Die Stem from national anthem

The EFF says there will be no dignity in SA's heritage until apartheid symbols have fallen.

EFF ‘illegal’ student gathering at UJ turns bloody

All hell broke loose at UJ when police and hired bouncers clamped down on a protest by members of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command.

Alliance to tackle internal divisions head-on

The tripartite alliance says it wants to address all "irritations" that are causing internal divisions at their five day summit.
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Why anti-corruption campaigns are bad for democracy

Such campaigns can draw attention to the widespread presence of the very behaviour they are trying to stamp out — and subconsciously encourage people to view it as appropriate

Tax, wage bill, debt, pandemic: Mboweni’s tightrope budget policy statement

The finance minister has to close the jaws of the hippo and he’s likely to do this by tightening the country’s belt, again.

SA justice delays extradition of paedophile to UK

Efforts to bring Lee Nigel Tucker to justice have spanned 16 years and his alleged victims have waited for 30 years

Former state security minister Bongo back in court

Bongo and his co-accused will appear in the Nelspruit magistrate’s court in Mpumalanga over charges of fraud, corruption and theft
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday