Stun grenades fired at Union Buildings

Karabo Ngoepe, Genevieve Quintal, and Adam Wakefield, News24

Pretoria - Stun grenades were fired by riot police at the Union Buildings as students tried to break down a fence on the south lawns that was stopping them from gaining access to the seat of the Presidency on Friday afternoon.

As Friday morning moved into Friday afternoon, the mood at the front of the crowd turned aggressive.

Inside the Union Buildings President Jacob Zuma was in a meeting with student leaders and university management teams regarding the protests against high fees that have gripped the country.

After an initial wave of aggression to get through the fence, separating the south lawn from the Union Buildings themselves, calm was restored for a while before anger again reached fever pitch as students attempted to rip the fence off from the bottom up.

Police dressed in riot gear fired stun grenades to push the students back. The blasts of stun grenades filled the air.

Fires were seen breaking out among the thousands of students who had come to demonstrate for lower fees and a 0% fee increase.

A police van with a water cannon drove through the crowd to douse some of the fire and disperse the protesters. It was pelted with rocks and water bottles.

Thousands of other peaceful students watched on the side.

Journalists could not go into the centre of the crowd as it was too dangerous. Earlier three journalists were threatened by a group of students from Soshanguve.

Black smoke was seen billowing over the lawns from fires.

Some students retreated in fear of stun grenades.

The students were earlier told Zuma would address them later on Friday afternoon, which was greeted by bottles being thrown and booing.

Some students were seen throwing stones over the fence at police.

Thousands of students from Pretoria and Johannesburg are gathered at the Union Buildings in a mass demonstration against rising university fees.

The demonstrations were sparked last week by Wits University students, who blockaded the entrance to the Johannesburg university's campus after the institution indicated it would raise fees by 10.5% for 2016.

Demonstrations later spread to Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the University of Pretoria, the University of the Free State, the University of Limpopo, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Tshwane University of Technology, including its campus in Mbombela, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the University of the Western Cape, Walter Sisulu University, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Fort Hare.