No fee increases. End outsourcing. Drop the charges against the arrested students and workers. Condemn police brutality against students.
Searing heat didn't deter thousands of UCT students, staff and outsourced workers from trekking to Jameson Plaza on 22 October with these demands to UCT management, and to express their fury at the way protesting students, staff and workers had been brutally treated by police this week.
March organisers reminded those in attendance that the #FeesMustFall campaign was part of a broader struggle against racial capitalism. The demand for a zero percent increase in 2016 fees, they said, was merely a step towards free education for all, and that demands for an end to outsourcing were woven into national and global struggles against privatisation and neoliberal economic policies.
A police helicopter circled (and was roundly booed) and a drone briefly hovered above the Maths Building. But for the most part, people were too engrossed with watching democracy unfold on the steps to care.
When Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price waded through the crowd to take a seat on Jammie steps amongst students, scholars and management, a mini-rumpus ensued as the crowd argued about whether he should be allowed to speak or not.
“We want Max!” chanted thousands. Some of the students holding the megaphone disagreed; after much back and forth, Price took the megaphone and started his address. The crowd demanded to know who had given the order to file an urgent court interdict on Monday, which precipitated riot police storming Bremner building and arresting students and staff.
Price's speech was eventually drowned out; this after the crowd took exception to his suggestion that protesters should commit to not behaving violently. “We were peaceful,” staff and students insisted.
Left: United by cause: Jameson Plaza was packed to the rafters. Right: On Thursday's evidence, this week's #FeesMustFall protests have transcended class divides.
'Free the Bellville 6'
This was seen on a poster, referring to the six people that were arrested in the Parliament precinct on Wednesday and taken to Bellville for questioning. The six included Rekgotsofetse Chikane, son of the Reverend Frank Chikane; Markus Trengrove, son of advocate Wim Trengrove; Chumani Maxwele; Lindsay Maasdorp; Nathan Taylor and Kevin French, according to media reports.
Price's son, Ilan, was one of a further 23 people arrested in and around Parliament as students insisted on seeing Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande that day, only to be met by stun grenades and tear gas instead. All the arrested were released on Thursday, and the cases against them are due to resume in February next year.
Amongst the '#FeesMustFall' and 'End Outsourcing' posters on Jammie were seen: 'Shoot down fees. Not us', and, 'A name like Blade and you can't cut the fees!'
No official tally was made available, but the crowd was estimated to be between 5 000 and 6 000 strong.
Story by Yusuf Omar. Photos by Roger Sedres.
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