Asinamali: Shutdown looming as talks between students, Manamela break down

Students have been demanding that all historic debt be scrapped, and registration continue for the current year.

South African Police Service (SAPS) officers use teargas to disperse students during a protest in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on March 10, 2021. Picture: Emmanuel Croset/AFP

JOHANNESBURG – There appears to be no end yet to the student protests for free higher education after talks broke down between the Wits Student Representative Council and Deputy Minister Buti Manamela on Saturday, in Pretoria.

Students have been demanding that all historic debt be scrapped, and registration continue for the current year.

Reports also said that negotiations between Minister Blade Nzimande and the South African Union of Students (SAUS) have stalled, with threats to shut down tertiary institutions.

On Friday, the student union gave the higher education minister until 5 pm to respond to their demands, failing which they would make sure places of higher learning were shut down from Monday.

READ: Nzimande has until 5 pm today to respond to student demands or face shutdown

Among the 15 demands, students want:

  • A full return of the academic programme on campus under level one lockdown

  • The clearance of historic debt

  • Immediate provision of post-graduate funding

  • All first years must be allowed to register while government resolves the funding matter

They also want laptops to be provided to students, and that their allowance must be given this month, given that many landlords are asking for payment already.

The past two weeks have seen protests near wits university with one person killed and several students arrested.

However, on Thursday, the National Prosecuting Authority said it would not prosecute students arrested during the Wits #Asinamali protests that had been raging since the start of the month.

ALSO READ: NPA insufficient evidence to prosecute students arrested during Wits protest

At the same time, the public was outraged, calling for police brutality within the South African Police Service to be addressed - with President Cyril Ramaphosa saying there was overreach on the part of the police, and that the protest by the students did not "warrant that type of resistance and of push from the police".

This comes after Mthokozisi Ntumba (35) died in Braamfontein, allegedly after he had been shot by officers who had been firing rubber bullets to disperse protesting students.

Ntumba was shot after he had been to visit a clinic in the area.

His family described the father of four as humble, respectful, adding that he still had a lot to offer South Africa.

WATCH: 'There were some images we weren't ready to see' - Ntumba's cousin

On Friday, students at the University of Cape Town occupied the Kramer Building, which houses the campus' student financial aid office.

They were demanding that Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng and university management address their financial struggles face to face.

They also want around 2,500 financially excluded students be allowed to register.

The building houses the campus' student financial aid office.

Additional reporting by Mia Lindeque & Kevin Brandt

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