Student marches gain momentum countrywide

Thomas Hartleb and Ahmed Areff, News24

Johannesburg – A planned march in Johannesburg to the ANC's Luthuli House headquarters apparently fizzled out on Thursday after poor coordination between student leaders from the University of Johannesburg and Wits University.

It was the eighth day of protests by thousands of disaffected students countrywide, faced with mounting student loans, double digit fee increases, and the possibility of not finishing their studies because of a lack of money.

UJ students marched to Wits University to wait for their colleagues who then apparently did not want to join the action.

The UJ students eventually turned back to protest outside their own institution.

Some protesting Wits students later suggested among themselves that they would march to the Johannesburg Central Police Station and hand themselves over in solidarity with students who had been arrested.

They later decided to march to Luthuli House.

University of Pretoria students, meanwhile, were making their way through the town, with the Union Buildings in their sights. Others protesters however maintained that students should only march to the Union Buildings on Friday.

In Cape Town, 29 students arrested after Wednesday’s chaos in the parliamentary precinct, were all released on a warning by the city's magistrate's court.

Six of them, including Reverend Frank Chikane's son Kgotsi, Advocate Wim Trengove's son Markus, UCT Vice Chancellor Max Price's son Ilan, and Rhodes Must Fall campaigner Chumani Maxwele, spent the night in jail.

"This is not gonna be a problem that is going to go away," Ilan Price told reporters after the matter was postponed to February 23.

On Wednesday afternoon, students spilled into the grounds of Parliament as Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was delivering his mid-term budget speech. Riot police forced them out using stun grenades.

At Wits University on Thursday, religious leaders came to pray and support the students. They laid hands on Frank Chikane. He said he was not surprised that his son was arrested because he was a leader.

Commenting on the police response to the protest, the cleric said, "It was traumatic for people who saw it because of the manner in which it was done. That is why parents are saying [there should be] no guns... where students are."

The Cape Town students faced charges of trespassing and illegal gathering. The Hawks earlier rejected the “malicious rumours” that they also faced charges of treason, saying this was irresponsible reporting.

President Jacob Zuma announced he would hold talks with student leaders and university management on Friday, to try and end the protests and find a solution to the fee increases.

Police had activated their National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure to deal with the protests.