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Free education fight a marathon - Wits student leader

Wits SRC deputy Secretary General Fasihah Hassan says they are serious about their demand for free education.

FILE: Wits student leader Fasihah Hassan. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Wits University SRC deputy Secretary General Fasihah Hassan says they are serious about their demand for free education for poor and so-called "missing middle" students.

Yesterday, students and security guards hurled stones at each other as protesters tried to enter Solomon Mahlangu House.

They have been demonstrating after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande's announcement this week that varsities need to determine their own fee hikes for the 2017 academic year but that they should be capped at eight percent.

Wits has suspended all academic activities for the rest of the week.

Hassan says the poor and middle class must be prioritised.

"Free education and the fight for it is a long-term goal, it's a marathon. And in a situation like this you must address those that need it the most first."

Yesterday, there were violent scenes at Wits when students and security guards threw stones at each other as protesters tried to enter Solomon Mahlangu House.

WATCH: Rocks and rampage at Wits University

At least 31 students have been arrested and are being detained at the Hillbrow police station after blocking cars from entering the Wits campus.

The university has obtained a court interdict preventing students from disrupting academic activities and threatening those entering and leaving the premises.

Later in the day, Wits students and private security on campus clashed, pelting stones at each other, with rubber bullets, stun grenades and teargas being used by security.

Incoming Wits SRC president Kefentse Mkhari says: "The university uses its own autonomy to silence the community of the university, the larger portion of the university is the students."

Demonstrating students walked around the campus, calling on others who were in lectures to join them, a request that was met with resistance from some.

Protesting Wits University students say their next goal is to fight management over what they have described as the militarisation of their campus.

Meanwhile, the University of Johannesburg has urged students across the country to be aware of those who appropriate legitimate student causes for their personal political ends.

UJ's convocation president Mbali Mkhonto says: "Our course for free education must not be hijacked by any external forces."

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