Human Rights & Public Liberties

Human Rights & Public Liberties

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021

South African students protest amid funding crisis

Published on: 16 March, 2021


Students across South Africa have been protesting over the funding of their studies. Further protests are expected on Tuesday since the higher education sector has failed to find a solution to the funding crisis at universities.

A number of universities are expected to be temporarily shut down this week because of the anticipated protests.

The delay in student funding has put pressure on universities across South Africa.

According to student leadership government is displaying a ‘lack of urgency’ in resolving the funding issue. They are calling for the resignation of Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education.

According to Faranaaz Veriava, head of education at the non governmental organisation Section 27 the problem is largely due to a lack of planning on how to provide the free education announced by former President Jacob Zuma in 2017. Zuma made the announcement after a nationwide university fees crisis that started in October 2015. Students were demanding free education.

Speaking to Al Jazeera Veriava said: ‘I think the problem can not be the burden of universities, We need a national nuanced solution to address the problems that are recurring or they will keep arising again and again.’

Police brutality

A protest broke out at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on Wednesday 10 March. Police used rubber bullets to disperse the students. A bystander, Mthokoza Ntumba, 35 was hit by three bullets during the protest. He died of his injuries.

The Vice Chancellor of the university, Zeblon Vilakazi subsequently said: ‘We will not be running a university of free though if we do not allow protests, but these must be handled well and safely.’

Edwin Makwati, researcher at the Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg said to Al Jazeera: ‘The government sent the police to victimise protesters and to send the message that protests will not be condoned.’

Police brutality has been prevalent in South Africa over many years.

Makwati adds: ‘The only thing that will make the police more sensitive is if there are consequences to their actions in the form of prosecutions and convictions.’

Four police officers have been arrested for the killing of Ntumba.