After weeks of nationwide protests, South African president Jacob Zuma announced on October 23 that there will be no university fee increase for the 2016 academic year.
The protests culminated in the country’s seat of government Pretoria, where over 10,000 people gathered to demand the fee increases be scrapped. The protest began peacefully as planned, but escalated as some protesters threw rocks and police fired stun grenades and tear gas.
Universities proposed increasing fees 11.5% to keep up with standards, a hike students say will prevent them from attending school next year. Many students are middle-class and are too poor to afford the fee raise, but also too well-off for National Student Financial Aid.
After a meeting with student leaders, President Zuma announced that “there will be a zero increase of university fees in 2016.” The Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande tried to negotiate with student leaders for a 6% fee increase reflecting the country’s 4.6% inflation rate, but the student leaders rejected the offer and would only accept a 0% increase.
The president did not address the protesters personally and instead announced the scrapping of the increase in the press room in the government building.
Despite the 0% increase on university fees for 2016, students are demanding free education as the final goal, a service Nzimande says the government cannot afford.
Earlier that week, twenty-three students were arrested during protests in Cape Town, while protestors in Johannesburg overturned cars on the school’s campus.