Magnificent Mndebele

[intro]Fees Must Fall protests have once again rocked campuses across the country. Magnificent Mndebele has been following the unfolding events in Johannesburg.[/intro]


Following violent protests at the University of KwazuluNatal over the past few weeks, demonstrations demanding free education spread to Johannesburg last Monday. At the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) students sang freedom songs and spread the message that free, decolonised education is the only offer they’re willing to accept.

Students at Wits mobilised throughout the week, gathering momentum on their campus following the announcement last Monday by minister of higher education, Blade Nzimande of an 8% fee increase for 2017, along with a proposal that would see increased support for poor and middle-class students.


Students at Wits sang, danced and held placards high as they moved through their campus in an attempt to occupy Solomon House to hold a closed meeting about their priorities for the protest. The student movement has been marred by internal disputes, party politics and complex factions and groupings.

Last Tuesday, violence broke out between private security guards and students with stones being thrown by both sides at the entrance to Solomon House (Great Hall). Students used fire extinguishers while police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse students.

In the aftermath of the violent clashes, the Wits senior executive team suspended academic activities for the rest of the week. A number of injuries and arrests were reported.

The windows and doors of Solomon House were shattered following the clash, students pressed forward, vowing to shut down the university.

On Wednesday, students took to the streets, with some protesting students intimidating those on university busses and continuing to demand free, decolonised education.

A police presence in Johanesburg as students marched to Cosatu on Friday to mobilise workers. COSATU and SACP signed a memorandum that committed them to joining students in their fight for free education.

Debates around disruption and violence surrounding the protests from institutional structures as well as protesting students will continue in the coming weeks. And while the complex dynamics that have come to define the movement have placed pressure on the credibility of their struggle, what is clear is that disruptions across campuses will continue.

All images courtesy of Magnificent Mndebele.