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Johannesburg: Police Fire Teargas, Stun Grenades at Student Protesters

Students throw stones during clashes with security at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand as countrywide protests demanding free tertiary education entered a third week, South Africa, September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Siphiwe Sibeko

Students throw stones during clashes with security at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand as countrywide protests demanding free tertiary education entered a third week, South Africa, September 20, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg: South African police fired stun grenades and teargas on Wednesday to disperse students marching near a Johannesburg university to protest against higher tuition fees, in the second straight day of clashes at the campus.

The protests at the University of the Witwatersrand, known as ‘Wits’, were triggered by a government recommendation on Monday that 2017 tuition fee increases be capped at 8%, well above the current inflation rate of 5.9%.

At least three universities suspended classes because of the protests, including Wits, the University of Pretoria’s main campus and the University of Cape Town.

Demonstrations since 2015 over the cost of university education, prohibitive for many black students, have highlighted frustration at the inequalities that persist more than two decades after the 1994 end of white-minority rule.

Nompendulo Mkatshwa, outgoing president of the student representative council at Wits, said some students had dispersed after the police action. “Others want to fight back because they don’t understand why they have been attacked in the first place,” she said.

Police could not immediately comment on the clashes. Traffic in parts of the city centre was disrupted as students fled from the police, with some running back into the campus.

Earlier, police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini had said that 31 students arrested on Tuesday at Wits had been released, but gave no further details.

The government and the main opposition party have accused students of turning campuses across the country into battlegrounds and damaging university property.

Weeks of violent demonstrations last year forced President Jacob Zuma to rule out fee raises for 2016, but university authorities have warned that another freeze for the coming year could damage their academic programmes.