South Africa: University fee protests turn violent

Dozens arrested at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand during protests demanding free tertiary education.

| Education, South Africa

South African police clashed with student protesters demanding free education on Monday at the University of the Witwatersand (Wits), which had reopened after demonstrations forced its closure last week.

Demonstrators hurled rocks at shield-wielding private security guards while police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the crowd at the Wits Johannesburg campus.

Protesting students took to the streets of Braamfontein district, where the university is located, police said. Television footage showed several people trying to topple a bus in downtown Johannesburg and later set it on fire.

Demonstrations since last year over the cost of university education - prohibitive for many black students - have highlighted frustration at the inequalities that persist more than two decades after the 1994 end of white minority rule.

The current protests were triggered by a government recommendation that 2017 tuition fee increase be capped at eigh percent.

Critics have said that the increase would further disadvantage black students, already under-represented.

Weeks of violent demonstrations last year over university costs forced President Jacob Zuma to rule out fee hikes for 2016, but university authorities have warned that another freeze for this year could damage their academic programmes.

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