— Shannon Fogden (@shanfogden) October 22, 2015
South Africa’s university students are in uproar. All over the country, students have taken to the streets to protest about the state of the country’s universities. Key to the protests are objections over the rising cost of university education. While funding per student decreased by 1.1% annually for ten years, university tuition fees increased by 2.5% annually over the same period. #FeesMustFall is more than a social media ‘slacktivist’ movement. The very real frustration at the levels of tuition fees, which are untenable for many, coupled with lower funding and rampant corruption has bubbled over into the streets.
South Africa’s youth movement
— Jamaine Krige (@jour_maine) October 22, 2015
Students have attempted to ‘shut down’ the country. University after university has experienced mass walkouts and sit ins, as well as street protests. #JHBShutDown denotes the student movement centred in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, and home to almost 800,000 people. All over the country, frustrated students have taken to the streets to protest against a perceived injustice. A total of 18 universities over eight provinces have participated in South Africa’s day of frustration. The full force of South Africa’s youth discontentment has been deployed to the streets. In response? A heavy handed approach from the police.
Tear gas and truncheons
— ѕyndιcalιѕт (@syndicalisms) October 21, 2015
You can shoot and Teargas the students you pigs but it won’t change anything. Why? BECAUSE IDEAS ARE BULLETPROOF #FeesMustFall
— King Wavvy (@caseywaves) October 21, 2015
When students began to protest outside the South African parliament, the police became increasingly heavy handed. Disproportionate responses by security forces are a grim certainty where youth protests and movements are concerned. In South Africa, where reports of police brutality increased threefold in a decade, this was perhaps inevitable. Tear gas has been used in an attempt to subdue the protesters. Tear gas has also reportedly been used in several other cities against the #FeesMustFall protesters. So prevalent is its use, that advice for dealing with the effects of tear gas began to circulate on social media.
— Amandla! (@AmandlaMobi) October 22, 2015
With reports of rubber bullets, stun grenaes, and armed police being deployed, the protests seem likely to escalate.
What began as protests over the state of South Africa’s universities and rising tuition fees has spilled into a general youth movement against exploitation, and the forces of corruption. Its main manifestation? The government. The protests outside the parliament in Cape Town, the very heart of the Rainbow Nation, have cemented the role of #FeesMustFall as a wider youth political force.
— Sentletse (@Sentletse) October 22, 2015
President Jacob Zuma’s ANC government is already wildly unpopular. A heavy crackdown on peaceful protests is not good PR – and Zuma has realised this. Reports have emerged that the South African president plans to meet with both student protesters and university management on Friday, in an effort to diffuse the situation. The eyes of South Africa, and indeed the world, are upon him. However the president responds, satisfaction may be hard to find. Students are furious with the university establishment, how Zuma handles this will determine whether or not they are furious with the government. The students are determined for fees to fall – it may not be long before they wish the government to go the same way.