And Yes #FeesHaveFallen
By Mbali Dhlamini
When I first got word that students at Wits University were planning to go on a mass march to protest against high tuition fees and the proposed fee increases for 2016 I did not imagine that I was about to witness a national movement which would completely rattle the South African Government.
As if to prove to the country that the issues faced by Wits University students were issues and challenges being faced by almost each and every South African the #FeesMustFall campaign spread like wild fire.
Taking part in the nationwide protests were students from the various institutions across the country who received the support of everyone and anyone who has ever been denied access to a tertiary institution due to a lack of finances.
The power of social media was brought into the spotlight once again and news of the mass action reached the different corners of the world.
Covering the #FeesMustFall story I met a lot of different people from all walks of life who all seemed to speak with one voice when it came to the end goal that they were hoping to achieve when all the dust had settled.
The call for Free Quality Education in the future became the bigger achievement that the students were pushing for.
Having experienced very peaceful demonstrations in the eight days of protests nothing could have prepared me for what would take place at The Union Buildings on day nine.
The Union buildings were a scene of chaos as the #FeesMustFall campaign reached its tipping point.
Students from various institutions across the country descended on the National site where President Jacob Zuma was holding a high level meeting with University and student leaders.
Following this meeting The President announced that there would be a zero percent fee increase in 2016.
This move and decision from The President was hailed by different students across the country who called it a victory for this generation’s youth.
Instead of a celebratory mood in Pretoria though – Chaos and violence erupted with students clashing with police.
The students voiced their disappointment that President Jacob Zuma did not come out to address them as he had promised all day.
The students took to the streets after police cleared them from the Union Building Lawns.
Roads were barricaded – Police vehicles were stoned and police themselves were at the receiving end of the wrath of the students.
The police retaliated by firing rubber bullets – stun grenades and tear gas to disperse protesting students.
It now remains to be seen whether or not this spells an end to the nationwide movement.
The expectation is that normality will be returned to the country’s higher education institutions and that learning and exams will be able to resume as soon as possible.