PICS: Student Protests – 0% tuition hike meets Stun Grenades, Rubber Bullets

The initial reaction to President Jacob Zuma’s announcement that university tuition fees would not be increased next year, would suggest both parties are not entirely happy with the outcome. In what may be construed as Zuma’s shortest media briefing in his tenure he did leave saying discussions were still underway. But as soon as he was finished the two parties starting clashing outside. Stun grenades and rubber bullets on the police side, while students hurtled stones. The message to international investors has not improved but the victory on the side of the students may just be the win the general populous has been waiting for. Whether it leads to further improvements we will have to wait and see, but the youth must feel a sense of victory with what’s happened today. And it surely won’t be the last. – Stuart Lowman

by News24 and Adam Wakefield

Johannesburg – The sound of rubber bullets, stun grenades, and stones hitting police nyalas greeted President Jacob Zuma’s announcement on Friday afternoon that university fees would rise by 0% in 2016.

Police and nyalas could be seen chasing down students on the south lawns of the Union Buildings and surrounding streets following Zuma’s announcement, which was proceeded by a mass demonstration against fee increases that had already turned violent.

Demonstrators gesture at a photographer during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma's offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid 'Born Free' generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko‚Ä®
Demonstrators gesture at a photographer during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma’s offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid ‘Born Free’ generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko‚Ä®

A group of agitators, possibly not even students, had confronted police earlier on Friday afternoon by a fence erected ahead of the protest.

They ripped a hole in the fence, where over the course of the late morning and early afternoon they played a game of cat and mouse with police, throwing stones and other objects, with police responding with tear gas and stun grenades.

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Many of those making up the agitating group – who the majority of peacefully protesting students disassociated themselves from – were wearing ANC Youth League, SA Student Congress, Economic Freedom Fighters and the Pan Africanist Movement of Azania T-shirts.

Protesters push a portable loo before burning it during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma's offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid 'Born Free' generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Protesters push a portable loo before burning it during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma’s offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid ‘Born Free’ generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

After this initial confrontation, a group remained behind, expecting Zuma to address them. Instead, Zuma address the country via television after a meeting with student leaders and university management teams on the issue of fee increases.

Metro cop seen pulling out a pistol

After Zuma’s announcement, a scuffle seemed to breakout which led to a deterioration of order as police began firing rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at fleeing students. A group managed to make it behind the police line, but they were chased and fled back to the lawns.

A demonstrator hangs on to a police water cannon during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma's offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid 'Born Free' generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
A demonstrator hangs on to a police water cannon during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma’s offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid ‘Born Free’ generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A metro police officer was also seen pulling out a pistol while students threw rocks. Security guards in the nearby Sheraton Hotel also stood ready with pistols.

The scene resembled that of a battlefield, as the statue of deceased former president Nelson Mandela looked on, arms aloft and wide open.

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Many of the students spoken to after the 0% announcement felt it was not a victory, merely the first step in a long process of reforming South Africa’s higher education system.

In Cape Town, students reacted with tears and jubilation as news spread of Zuma’s announcement, with cheers heard outside Parliament.

Motorists hooted and gave students the thumbs-up, while some of the students started singing the national anthem.

A demonstrator looks through a fence during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma's offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid 'Born Free' generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
A demonstrator looks through a fence during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma’s offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid ‘Born Free’ generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

“We got what we were asking for,” said one student, adding that it had been very emotional to see their fellow students arrested.

‘Zuma must not think he is doing us a favour’

Meanwhile at Stellenbosch University, where two students had been arrested earlier, there were tears of joy.

But at the University of the Western Cape, students still wanted free education, rather than a zero percent increase.

There were also concerns elsewhere that Zuma had not addressed the students who had gathered at the Union Buildings.

A demonstrator gestures in front of a burning portaloo during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma's offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid 'Born Free' generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
A demonstrator gestures in front of a burning portaloo during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma’s offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid ‘Born Free’ generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

In Durban, Walter Sisulu University third-year student Athenkosi Tshayingwe said that Zuma had lied to demonstrators.

“Yes, it is a good thing that the fees won’t increase. But that was obvious. The increases in some cases were more than 20%. He must not think he is doing us a favour by making that declaration. This solves zero problems. My life is still one that began in a poor township with no water, no toilets… nothing.”

Protesters gather during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma's offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid 'Born Free' generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Protesters gather during a protest over planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union building in Pretoria, South Africa October 23, 2015. South African police fired stun grenades at students who lit fires outside President Jacob Zuma’s offices following a week of protests, the first signs of the post-apartheid ‘Born Free’ generation flexing its muscle. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University SRC president Nicholas Nyati had mixed feelings about Zuma’s announcement.

“I am happy that the students were united, spoke in one voice and the government listened. I am disappointed because it took government a long time to respond to us … I am also worried about what will happen in 2017.”

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