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Sasco calls for all SA universities to shut down

The #FeesMustFall campaign has received messages of solidarity from international institutions.

A tyre burns as the UCT FeesMustFall protestors march to university residences. Picture: Anthony Molyneaux/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Students Congress (Sasco) says it wants a nationwide university shutdown today by midday today calling for students to protest peacefully at institutions.

The University of Pretoria and Rhodes University has confirmed that all university activities will be suspended today while Wits has suspended lectures for the rest of this week.

The #FeesMustFall Campaign has been taken up at several universities around the country as far as the University of the Free State and Sasco says all institutions across the country must join the call to protest.

The protests are to show university management that there must be a 0 percent increase to next year's fees and an end to exorbitant increases to tuition fees.

The Sasco says a large number of universities across the country along with agricultural colleges will take part in the shut down.

In Gauteng the University of Pretoria, Wits and Tshwane University of Technology are expected to hold demonstrations.

The protests have also been endorsed with messages of solidarity from students in the United Kingdom and in the SADC region.

The school of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London has sent a solidarity message to the campaign.

It calls for an end of police violence against students and the use of stun grenades and arrests to quell the protests.

The Namibian National Students Organisation also condemns the arrest of University of Cape Town students by police.

UNIVERSITY AFFECTED:

● University of Free State

● University of Limpopo

● University of Fort Hare

● Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

● University of the Witwatersrand

● University of Cape Town

● Stellenbosch University

● Eastcape Midlands College (Grahamstown)

● The University currently known as Rhodes

● Central University of Technology

● Cape Peninsula University of Technology

● University of Western Cape

● All 11 Agricultural Colleges in South Africa

● Walter Sisulu University (Buffalo City Campus and Umtata Campus)

● Tshwane University of Technology

● University of Pretoria

● North West University (Potchefstroom campus)

Sasco president Ntuthuko Makhombothi said, "What we're saying very strongly is that we don't want any violence because it will take away the genuine struggle we are raising. We don't want to vandalise property and we can't afford to vandalise glass."

LISTEN: Analysts deliberate on the campaign.

FREE STATE REJECTS OFFER

The campaign has spread to the University of the Free State were students were seen blocking entrances to the university calling for a 0 percent increase.

#FeesMustFall The campaign has spread to the University of the Free State where students also want the scrapping of tuition fee increases EC

Students there say they can't afford the R13,000 increase to fees next year and management has not agreed to negotiate with them.

The university's Sasco leader Benni Shuping the fees are just too much for students as it is.

"The students are saying that is too much, they cannot pay it hence the campus shutdown today and tomorrow."

Secretary General of the ANC Youth League at the university Castro Molahleni says the shutdown will continue tomorrow.

"The students decided that should they not agree to that then there will be a campus shutdown and that is exactly what we have done. We are going to continue with our plan the whole week."

WITS WAITING FOR DIRECTION FROM LEADERSHIP

Wits University students say they're waiting for feedback from council members before suspending their protests on campus.

Lectures and exams have been cancelled for the rest of the week, as students are expected continue to demonstrating and blocking access to the campus.

They say they want fee increases for next year to be scrapped, regardless of a meeting with higher education officials yesterday where it was decided increases should be capped at 6 percent.

WATCH: Wits students continue protests, musicians join in.

Incoming SRC President Nompendulo Mkatshwa says their demands haven't changed.

"The last discussion we had was 0 percent fee increase and until students want to say anything else it remains at 0 percent."

Mkatshwa says while exams and lectures are important, this issue needs to be resolved before the academic programme continues.

"The same way we can protest for our fees not to increase is the same way we will protests to ensure we write all our exams."

Many students stayed on campus overnight for a mass study session to show management how serious they are in terms of the issue.

The students remain in the building as they make a point that they're serious about learning.

Some students are packing their belongings as they leave the Senate House concourse.

They have maintained that they won't stand for any fees increase if they are to achieve free education in their lifetime

ACADEMICS SPEAK OUT

Some academics at wits say the university management has shown a lack of leadership addressing the student's critical concerns which is only leading to exacerbated tensions.

More than 45 academics have released a statement saying student leaders have been calm, organised and peaceful adding that management should be there on the ground.

Senior lecturer Nicky Falkoff says management should be beholden to the students showing them that they are trying to achieve the same goal.

"It's behold on public management of the university to fight as hard as the students are fighting for access to Wits because what is this lip service we are paying to transformation if we don't genuinely work as hard as possible."

LISTEN: South Africans debate the #FeestMustFall demonstrations.

She says students are risking their academic future for the movement and some of them are incredibly anxious about their exams.

"We have about R10,000 on financial aid and a lot more in the middle point where their families can just about scrape the money together and if things go wrong this year those kids don't have the option to come back and repeat."

Meanwhile, anti-corruption coalition convener Zwelinzima Vavi says the nationwide student action shows government has caved to making education a commodity instead of making it accessible to all.

He says the student protests around the country deserve unreserved and unconditional support as they send a clear message to government to deliver in its promises for free education.

Vavi says government will not solve the problems by merely meeting with university vice chancellors government needs a radical transformation.

"They are fighting an important struggle that is important. We have been observing and extremely worried that education is being commodified."

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