Johannesburg - The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Friday welcomed a #FeesMustFall protest march to its headquarters in Johannesburg by Wits University students.
The march followed Wits students engaging in running battles with the police throughout the week. Police had to used stun grenades, teargas and rubber bullets to disperse students after they tried to take their protest to Braamfontein.
Several students were injured during the skirmishes. Some were also arrested.
The protests erupted after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement on Monday that poor students and those with a household income of less than R600 000 a year would not be affected by the 2017 fee hike, which is capped at eight percent.
Wits students on Friday resolved to take their grievances to the door of Cosatu House, handing over a memorandum to union federation leaders.
The students said they believed that the #FeesMustFall movement was not just a student issue, but a broad working-class issue since it was their parents who struggled to pay university fees.
The protesting students demanded that Cosatu be more vocal on the matter of free education.
Speaking before the march arrived at Cosatu House, spokesman Sizwe Pamla said they would meet the students and engage with them on the matter of free higher education.
Pamla said Cosatu House was the working-class headquarters and that free education was part of the federation’s resolve.
“The students are welcome to march to Cosatu House. We are for free education. Cosatu leadership engaged with student leaders and agreed on the march. We will meet and engage them when they arrive here,” Pamla said.
On Wednesday, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party (SACP) urged protesting students to direct their anger towards private companies instead of at government which they said had made strides in helping poor students.
Meanwhile, Wits extended the suspension of university activities “until further notice”.
“If conditions conducive to the delivery of academic programme do not improve, Wits may have to consider closure of the university, including the residence in the interest of safety and security of our staff, students and property,” Wits said in a statement.
The Wits senior executive team, in consultation with the Executive Committee of Council announced on Friday that all university operations will remain suspended until further notice.