Yesterday was not one of the South Africa’s better days. Frustration at the consequences of ongoing mismanagement, corruption and poor political leadership boiled over as Cape Town university students used the most public of platforms, the national Parliament, to air their grievances. They rallied around the banner of hikes in tuition, but the unhappiness goes much deeper. As the dust settles, what the world is seeing are the kind of pictures from South Africa last aired during Apartheid – armed Policemen, mostly white, challenged by young students, mostly black. The pictures tell their own story. A sad tale amplified by the reality – as the Financial Times of London is telling its millions of influential readers today. – Alec Hogg
By Andrew England of the Financial Times of London
South Africa’s parliament descended into chaos on Wednesday as security personnel expelled opposition MPs from the house and police clashed with students in parliamentary grounds as protests over planned increases in university tuition fees overshadowed the medium-term budget speech.
Police in riot gear fired stun grenades as they forcibly dispersed university students who were part of nationwide demonstrations that had led to the closure of the country’s top universities. Clashes between police and students continued in and around the parliamentary grounds in Cape Town in scenes that will shock the nation.
The protests began last week and are part of a wave of student activism not witnessed in the post-apartheid era that has swept across South Africa. The government and university chancellors on Tuesday said fee increases would be capped at 6 per cent for the year. But students, who say the fee increases would exclude poorer, mainly black people, from higher education, are pushing for zero increases.
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@alechogg Any investors considering developments in South Africa is by now firmly convinced to leave SA alone for a decade or two.
— Ou Oom Bitterbek! (@oubitterbek) October 22, 2015
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Parliamentarians belonging to the militant Economic Freedom Fighters party were expelled after they tried to get the budget statement postponed until a solution on the fees issue was resolved. When they were outvoted by other MPs, they stood and chanted “fees must fall” – the rallying cry of the students – as Nhlanhla Nene, the finance minister, stood to deliver his statement after a 50-minute delay.
The protests are seen as another sign of frustrations in South Africa, particularly among the youth, as the economy struggles and scandals have tarnished the credibility of the country’s political leadership, including President Jacob Zuma.
The challenges facing South Africa – the continent’s most advanced nation – were exemplified when Mr Nene reduced the economic growth forecast for the year from 2 per cent to 1.5 per cent, forecasting it would rise only slightly to 1.7 per cent in 2016. He blamed electricity supply constraints, falling commodity prices and weak confidence for the bleak outlook.
Mr Nene also projected that the budget deficit – which is estimated to stand at 3.8 per cent of gross domestic product this year – would not narrow as quickly as previously forecast. instead, it will not reach 3 per cent of gross domestic product until the financial year 2019. The finance minister has been credited for tightening spending as he seeks to balance the books, and he said overall expenditure limits would remain in place.
(c) 2015 The Financial Times Ltd.