UP protests spill into Pretoria streets

Published Oct 21, 2015


Pretoria - Crowds of University of Pretoria students on Wednesday, blocked the busy Lynnwood Road, adjacent to their campus, protesting against the proposed fees hike for next year.

Members of the Tshwane Metro Police Department and the SA Police Service escorted the students, instructing motorists to turn back.

Some of the students marched past the Brooklyn police station and went down Jan Shoba street. Traffic was congested as police diverted motorists on the students’ way.

Earlier, Fidelity Security Services guards manning the UP campus ran for cover as the more than 1 000 students headed to the administration block.

The security guards were joined by UP security officials as they ran towards the administration block. They spoke on two-way radios, behind locked, transparent glass doors inside the administration block.

The students braved the hot weather on Wednesday, and marched to different centres inside the university campus. Many were shielding themselves from the blazing sun with umbrellas.

The students did not chase the fleeing guards.

The protest leaders said no learning would take place at the institution, unless the proposed fees hike was rescinded.

“They must not increase fees, regardless of that six percent which [Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande] Blade gave yesterday. We don’t want a fee increase because our fees are already too exorbitant for poor students,” spokesperson for the #UPrising students movement Karabo Sekhukhuni said.

“We have the poorest of the poor students at this university. The students who sleep in the library daily, all they had was the registration fee and nothing else. Students are very hostile to that six percent. We don’t understand how Blade is advocating for that fee increase.”

She said the campus would be continually shut down, until the students’ demands were met.

“We are here until our management agrees to our terms. Today the campus is shut down, but on UP terms. It will stay shut down on our terms, until they agree to our terms,” Sekhukhuni said.

Asked if the students were not concerned about failing their examinations due to lost academic time, Sekhukhuni said the exams schedules may have to be shifted.

“We are giving the management until Friday to come back to us. Part of our memorandum says if this protest takes longer than it should, then they must move all academic programming to a time when we can do it.”

Some students who were seen wearing different political parties regalia were united in protest.

The University of Pretoria and that of the Free State on Wednesday suspended lectures and examinations as students at the institutions joined other campuses around the country to protest against the fee increases.

The University of Pretoria said lectures would be suspended to allow “peaceful engagement on key issues affecting the institution”.

“Tests and examinations for the said date [October 21] have been rescheduled. No student will be compromised by these adjustments to the academic programme,” the university said in a statement.

“Consequently, staff are not required to be present on campus. Only essential support service staff will be required for duty,” stated the university.

The institution’s students took to social media this week under #UPrising to mobilise for the protest. They held a night vigil at the main campus in Hatfield on Tuesday.

Nzimande’s announcement on Tuesday that an agreement had been reached to cap fee increases at six percent for 2016 was met with anger from protesters.

The students rejected Nzimande’s announcement and vowed to continue protesting for a no fee increase.

African News Agency

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