Polokwane – Street vendors were ordered to vacate their stalls after University of Limpopo students closed the local mall as protests against university fee increases continued to grow.
A shopping complex near the University of Limpopo was abruptly closed on Wednesday after apparently receiving verbal threats, before police resorted to using teargas and rubber bullets to disperse students.
Police spokesperson Ronel Otto said shops and banks were forced to close after protesting students hurled stones at police who promptly ordered shopkeepers to close their doors.
“The students have disrupted the exams and shops and banks at Zone 1 complex were forced to close by the striking students. They were on their way to shut down shops at the Paledi Mall complex but Public Order Policing members intervened and dispersed them with rubber bullets,” said Otto.
She said police vehicles were pelted with stones and some students also attempted to disrupt services at the Mankweng police station but they were dispersed. Otto said there were no reports of injuries received, and no arrests made as yet.
“We are maintaining our presence,” she said.
The shops remained closed for several hours as police ordered shop keepers to make sure that they remained inside their shops.
This was after students moved from shop to shop, ordering that they must close. A truck offloading cold drinks was looted and a driver was forced flee the scene in his vehicle.
Earlier on Wednesday, dozens of students at the University of Limpopo marched on the Polokwane campus in protest against planned tuition fee increases.
The students said that increasing the fees by government and universities would increase the number of dropouts and disadvantage the poor’s access to education.
They accused the university management of focusing more on profit-making than emancipating the poor from the chains of poverty.
“This call is to say we don’t want academic exclusion anymore, and we are seated here with more than 80 percent of students owing the university, so they are guaranteed of their failure to register next year,” the South African Students Congress’ (Sasco’s) Limpopo chairman Thembani Msisinyane said.
The university said it had suspended two examinations sessions on Wednesday, confirming that protesters had disrupted examinations.
The tuition fees increase has sparked a revolt and gained momentum despite Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s meeting with universities senior management over fees.
Nzimande’s meeting resolved on a six percent increase for 2016 but this has largely been rejected by the broad student movement who said they would not settle for anything less than a zero percent increase for next year.
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