SOUTH AFRICA –
AT least 2,000 South African university students and supporters crowded into a Johannesburg city block Thursday to demand that the ruling African National Congress – ANC party delivers on its promise of free higher education.
The demonstration comes more than a week after students at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand launched protests over a proposed 10 percent tuition and fee hike.
Protests over university costs have since spread across the country and forced no less than 14 institutions to temporarily close.
The demonstrations spurred university leaders to meet this week with Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande in an attempt to reach a compromise. The group came up with a proposal to cap increases at 6 percent — an offer immediately rejected by student leaders, who say that at minimum, there should be no increase at all.
On Thursday, students took their grievances to what many said was the responsible party, gathering outside the ANC headquarters in central Johannesburg as local police watched from the sidelines.
ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe, who attended Thursday’s protest but did not speak, said earlier in the day that the mounting protests were indeed a national crisis, but in a statement, he pointed the blame back at university management.