20 February 2019

South Africa: University Academic Year Starts With a Death, Arrests and a Hunger Strike


Protest action has flared up around the country as students from university and TVET colleges began the academic year, demanding accommodation, National Student Financial Aid Scheme allowances and cancellation of historic debt. Within the first two weeks, scuffles between students, SAPS and private security broke out on multiple campuses that so far has left one student dead and scores arrested.

Before the academic year had started, the South African Union of Students (SAUS) called for a national shutdown of university campuses. The shutdown, announced on 7 February, was called in response to issues of historic debt, financial exclusion, problems around National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding and allowances, and accommodation issues.

Last week officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training, including Minister Naledi Pandor, met student leaders and representatives from NSFAS in Parliament to discuss student grievances. Pandor issued a statement in response to 12 issues raised by SAUS.

Volatile campuses

Despite commitments to resolve student grievances, protest action turned violent on Monday at the Umlazi Campus of Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) in Durban.

SAPS KwaZulu-Natal Provincial spokesperson, Major Thulani Zwane, told Daily Maverick that police officers "didn't use a lot of force" on students throughout...

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