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Havoc arise when police fire rubber bullets at protesting students

Students demand to meet president

Students and police clashed in Pretoria CBD on Wednesday following a protest over the NSFAS funding.
Students and police clashed in Pretoria CBD on Wednesday following a protest over the NSFAS funding.
Image: Herman Moloi

Chaos erupted in Pretoria CBD on Wednesday afternoon when students and police clashed during a protest over the NSFAS defunding crisis.

Students were shot at while some were arrested after they started burning tyres outside the department of higher education and training building along Francis Baard Street where they had marched to hand over a memorandum of demands.

Dozens of students from various universities including the University of Pretoria, Tshwane University of Technology, the University of Limpopo and the University of North West, demanded that minister Blade Nzimande come out to meet them and receive their grievances.

But things went south when the other officials came out instead, saying that only the director was available to receive the memo. Students refused to hand over the memorandum to him saying that they would not be dealing with “juniors”.

While chanting, students started burning tyres and calling for Nzimande to come out. In an attempt to disperse them, police fired rubber bullets at the students and started manhandling some.

One student was shot at close range and police made several arrests.

Two cars parked near the department were stoned.

The students claim that many of them have been unfairly defunded by the NSFAS and that they were also against the new online payment system for their allowances which they say has technical issues.

The students are demanding Nzimande to immediately fix the NSFAS crises.

Tshwane University of Technology SRC president, Keamogetswe Masike, said because their pleas had fallen on deaf ears and students no longer wanted to see the minister, but were calling for the president.

“We no longer want to speak to Nzimande, we want to speak to the president... I think the state of education has been in crises for quite some time. It can’t be business as usual when scores of our students have not received their allowances and are facing difficulties with the appointed service providers.

“We are saying we are going to sleep here, other universities are coming to join us and we are going to continue to picket up until our demands are met.”

Masike said students camped outside the Union Buildings lawns until the president comes to meet them.

Last month, the NSFAS told Sowetan that it had cut out thousands of students which it believed were dishonest in their applications for funding.

The fund said for the first time in its history it was verifying information from applicants with public database including Sars, home affairs department, SA Social Security Agency and the credit bureau.

This after it found out earlier this year that it lost R5bn funding to about 40,000 undeserving applicants between 2018 and 2021. Those funds have not been recovered.

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