World in View: South African protests

From the November-December 2015 issue of News & Letters

In mid-October, students at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, sparked the biggest student protests since the end of apartheid. Protests over a proposed 10.5% fee hike, which would exclude many poorer students from higher education, spread to at least ten other universities. While Higher Education Minister Blaze Nzimande proposed a 6% hike, students demanded no hike in fees and Nzimande’s resignation.

Students defied the wishes of some protest leaders and marched on the ruling African National Congress headquarters in Johannesburg. They were met by riot police firing tear gas. At least 29 were arrested.

While anti-apartheid freedom songs and chants were used, one student protestor told both fellow students and the ANC leaders that “The honeymoon of 1994—when we were told that we were free—is over.”

In April students at the University of Cape Town forced the removal of a statue of racist imperialist Cecil Rhodes from campus. They were making the point that the right to an education has been paid for many times over, whether by entombment in Rhodes’ diamond mines or by any of the other cruel and exploitative means by which bourgeois “civilization” was built. They are asking what human liberation truly means.

For now, University officials have agreed to no immediate fee hike and to further negotiations.

—Gerard Emmett 

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