In early October, students in South Africa took to the streets in mass protests against proposed fee hikes for third level education. Beginning at the University of the Witwatersrand, the protests soon spread to campuses across the country and culminated in a march on Government buildings on October 23.
With Jacob Zuma responding to this mass action with a pledge to freeze fees in 2016, students can rightly claim victory. However, certain issues that were raised, and became inextricably linked with the campaign, such as the rights of blue-collar university workers, the lack of diversity of university teaching staff, and the affordability of higher level education generally, remain unresolved. Furthermore, the violent treatment of peacefully protesting students by the SAPS cannot be tolerated.
Some of our scholars were active players in the #FeesMustFall protest. Tumy Motsoatsoe produced this video with her group Thenx, calling for free education for all. Scholar Basani Baloyi wrote this article for CNN explaining how the protests are part of a much broader struggle.
Our partners were also involved. Lawyers at the Legal Resources Centre successfully obtained a Western Cape High Court order prohibiting SAPS from using unreasonable force against student protesters in Cape Town. Equal Education were vocal in their support of the movement from the beginning, mobilising school-age learners to join the student demonstrations.
The Trust issued a statementin support of the #FeesMustFall campaign, and expressed solidarity with protesters. As an organisation committed to an open and just society, free from discrimination, we stand against exclusion on the basis of affordability. We stand against the exploitation of workers on university campuses who bear the cost of education. We pledge full support to our network of scholars and partner organisations in their efforts to combat systemic inequalities in education, and in South African society as a whole. Additionally, we believe that the right to peaceful protest is a cornerstone of a functioning democratic society and its suppression can never be justified.