Zuma meets #FeesMustFall leaders as protests continue

South African president discusses tuition fee hikes with university heads and student leaders after violent protests.

South African President Jacob Zuma is meeting student leaders and university authorities to discuss planned hikes in tuition fees that have provoked more than a week of sometimes violent protests nationwide.

Previous negotiations have led to the government agreeing to reduce the rise in fees from more than 10 percent to six percent, but that has failed to satisfy protesters.

“They [protesters] are hoping that the second meeting this week could result in no increase at all in the fees,” Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from Pretoria, the administrative capital, said.

Critics say the increases would further disadvantage black students, who are already under-represented in universities.

On Friday, thousands of demonstrators demanding lower fees took to the streets across the country, with some trying to break down the perimeter fence surrounding the presidency office building in Pretoria. 

The protests came a day after demonstrators stormed the University of Johannesburg. 

On Wednesday, about 30 students were arrested after protesters stormed the parliament precinct in Cape Town to try to disrupt the reading of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s interim budget.

South Africa students clash with police over fees

Protester Shaka Sisulu told Al Jazeera: “There has been an increased amount of activism, particularly on campuses this year and it has increasingly been informed by an ideological position that is really positive – that is talking about a young South Africa.”

RELATED: Students breach South Africa parliament during fee protest

Referring to plans for fees to rise as much as 11.5 percent, Zuma said in a statement on Thurday that: “Nobody disagrees with the message that students from poor households are facing financial difficulties and possible exclusion.”

ANC leaders have blamed university administrators for the higher fees.

“The ANC say a unilateral decision was made – with no thought to the plight of students,” our correspondet said.

“But it is the government who funds the national student financial aid scheme, to the tune of $4bn.”

At least 15 of about 20 South African universities countrywide have been hit by the protests dubbed #FeesMustFall on Twitter.

A major protest was also held in Cape Town on Thursday, where students clashed with police.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters