Thousands converge on Union Buildings

Thomas Hartleb, News24

Johannesburg – Thousands of students converged on the Union Buildings on Friday as President Jacob Zuma arrived for talks to try and end the countrywide wave of protests against tuition fee increases.

Police in riot gear gathered at the fence on the South Lawns after students pushed against and bent sections of it. Calm was later restored.

Students black and white, rich and poor, from all political backgrounds, were calling for no fee increases, chanting "Blade must fall" and "Fees must fall".

Zuma arrived at the Union Buildings for the meeting with vice-chancellors and student leaders around 11:30, in a bid to end what some have called a crisis.

In Durban, students amassed on the steps of City Hall to hand over a memorandum. It was not yet clear who would receive it.

Despite the sporadic violence and the tension sometimes evident at the protests that began last Wednesday, students displayed their humour with placards.

"Our parents were sold a dream in 1994. Now we are here for a refund," read a placard one woman carried in Durban.

In Pretoria, a woman student penned a placard to the higher education minister with the words “Blade Phuzaface (drunk) Nzimande must fees look like beer bottles before you decrease them (5 marks).”

At Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha, students were singing and moving towards the Ibika township next to the campus, urging residents to join them. Protestors closed the N2 near the campus and were threatening to stop teaching at high and primary schools to put pressure on government.

At the University of Cape Town, a group of academics marched to demand the government explain its role in precipitating the crisis, and the university become more transparent with its finances.