Tuition fee: Zuma asks ministries to deal with university students protest

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has instructed his justice and crime prevention ministries to deal with the violence during student protests over tuition fees at universities, a cabinet spokesman said on Thursday.

At least six universities’ classes have been disrupted and some suspended as police and private security companies have tried to quell student dissatisfaction at a fee increase announced by government earlier this month, Reuters said.

“President Jacob Zuma has instructed the justice crime prevention and security cluster to deal with the mayhem that is destroying our institutions of higher learning,” Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told a post-cabinet media briefing.

In a separate statement Zuma’s office rejected rumours on social media that the nation’s cabinet has been reshuffled.

Student protests in South Africa spread Wednesday with police firing rubber bullets at demonstrators on campuses in Johannesburg and Grahamstown as unrest over tuition fees roils universities across the country.

The University of Johannesburg’s Doornfontein campus was hit by violent clashes between students and campus security guards as running battles erupted through the evening, AFP photographers witnessed.

Police in Grahamstown, in Eastern Cape province, arrested at least 11 Rhodes University students after they allegedly violated a court interdict which barred protests on the university grounds.

“Anyone who threatens or intimidates or prohibits lectures from taking place is breaking that interdict,” police captain Luvuyo Mjekula told the News 24 website.

“Today the students were found to be disrupting lectures. That was basically threatening other people. Police had to respond.”

Video footage showed police firing rubber bullets from behind a wall, shouting at students to disperse and dragging protesters into police vans.

Campuses including the University of Cape Town, Wits University in Johannesburg and the Durban University of Technology have been temporarily closed due to the protests.

Over the last ten days, riot police nationwide have regularly used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse student protesters, who are demanding free university education.