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South Africa president abandons tuition fees after days of protests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
South African President Jacob Zuma (AFP photo)

South African President Jacob Zuma has abandoned a plan to raise university fees that triggered days of clash between students and police.  

After a meeting with university managers and student leaders on Friday, Zuma, who was set to address the protesters, read a short statement at a televised press briefing, saying, “We agreed that there will be a zero increase of university fees in 2016."

"In the long term, there is a package of issues that was raised at the meeting that needs to be followed up -- these include free education, institutional autonomy (and) racism," he noted.

The decision to abandon tuition fess came following days of protests by students in the African country.  

On Friday, police fired stun grenade at students protesting outside the offices of Zuma in the country’s executive and de facto national capital, Pretoria.

The clashes broke out between police and students who had lit fires outside Zuma's offices in Pretoria and hurled stones at police guarding the Union Buildings, which form the official seat of the South African government and also house the offices of the president.

Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration against planned increases in tuition fees outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria on October 23, 2015. (Reuters photo)


A few of the students managed to push through a cordon before they were being pushed back by anti-riot police who also used water cannons to extinguish the fires. 

The students sang, “We the students dream of free education. We are not afraid of the police, our fight will win.”

“He's not taking us seriously, we've been here for a while,” one student said, referring to the president.

There was no report on potential casualties of the clashes.

Students say the government plan could further hurt African students, who had already been struggling with limited access to universities during decades of apartheid rule, or racial segregation, which lasted during the late 1940s through the 1990s.

The clashes came as universities in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and other cities had suspended classes during several days of protests against the planned rise in tuition fees. 

Protests have been held regularly at several South African universities targeting the limited racial transformation of education since the end of the apartheid rule in South Africa in 1994.

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