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Fees Must Fall
Part of increase in fees at South African universities
A group of students raise their hands in the air to signal that they have come in peace.
Date 12 October 2015 – ongoing
Location South Africa
Methods Protest
Lead figures

#FeesMustFall is a student led protest movement that began in mid October 2015 in response to an increase in fees at South African universities. The protests also called for higher wages for low earning university staff who worked for private contractors such as cleaning services and campus security and for them to be employed directly by universities.[1] Protests started at the University of Witwatersrand and spread to the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University before rapidly spreading to other universities across the country.[2]


  • Background 1
  • Timeline 2
    • 12–19 October 2.1
    • 19 October 2.2
    • 20 October 2.3
    • 21 October 2.4
    • 22 October 2.5
    • 23 October 2.6
  • References 3
  • External links 4


The protests followed a three-day student lock-down of the University of Witwatersrand campus the week before following an announcement by the university that fees would be increasing by 10.5% in the following year[3] despite an inflation rate of only around 6% for the same year. The university's chief financial officer stated that the cause of the high increase in fees was:

"1 .The rand-dollar exchange rate has fallen by approximately 22%, which has resulted in a substantial increase in the amount of money that we pay for all library books, journals, electronic resources research equipment that are procured in dollars and euros.
2.Salary increases for academics are set at 7% based on a three-year cycle and these increases are necessary to ensure that we retain the best intellectual minds in the country.
3.Generic inflation is hovering at around 6% which impacts on all other expenses that the University has to cover.
4.Utilities are increasing at rates substantially higher than the inflation rate."[4]

Although the focus of the protests was focused on a rise in fees a number of factors formed the background for the protests from a lack of funding for poorer students to attend university, high incomes for University managers,[5] a real decline in government funding for higher education,[6] lack of social transformation, to broader socio-economic and racial inequality issues.[7]

The vice chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand Adam Habib estimated that if government could provide an extra R8 billion per year "that will cover the tuition fees of every student at every university" in the country."[8] South Africa spends 0.75% of its GDP on tertiary education which is less than the African or world average.[9]


12–19 October

Students at the University of Witwatersrand started protesting around 14 October 2015 in response to an announcement by the university that fees would be raised by 10.5%. This led to a sit in and lock down of the university by students and some staff that, on 17 October, resulted in the university agreeing to suspend the fee increase and renegotiate it as well as not seek disciplinary action against participating students or staff members.[10]

On Sunday 17 October messages started circulating on Facebook about a possible complete shut down of the Rhodes University campus.

19 October

By Monday 19 October fresh negotiations between students and the university had begun.[8] On the same day similar protests had spread to the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University.[2] On the same day management at the University of Cape Town -which had announced a 10.3% fee increase the week before- applied for and received a court interdict to prevent protests at the university. Students started blocking vehicle access by placing rocks, dustbins, and benches on the roads leading into the campus.[4]

Students went ahead and led by the Rhodes Must Fall movement occupied the university's administration building.[11] Riot police were called to forcibly evict the protesters with over 25 students being arrested late at night. Reportedly over a thousand students then gathered at the Rondebosch police station and held an all night vigil calling for the student's release.[12]

At Rhodes University students reportedly started barricading themselves into the university and forcibly turning away others from entering the campus. Students at the University of Pretoria reportedly initiated plans to lock down three of that university's campuses for Wednesday 21 October.[4]

20 October

Students from the University of Cape Town marching to the local police station on Tuesday 20 October 2015 to demand the release of other students arrested the night before.

On Tuesday 20 October students assembled at the University of Cape Town and marched down to the local police station to demand that the students that were arrested the previous night be released. The Cape Peninsula University of Technology students started protesting and locked down the campus. At the Fort Hare University students also began protests and a capmus lock down. They refused to disperse or write exams until university management had dealt with concerns over fee increases and issues of corruption.[13] Students at the University of Stellenbosch handed over a memorandum of grievances to university management outlining their complaints whilst students at Rhodes University continued their protests.[14] At the University of Witwatersrand students rejected a proposed compromise by the university to cap fee increases at 6% and instead demanded that there be no increase in fees.[15]

21 October

Protests at Parliament - 21 October
Demonstrators at the #FeesMustFall protest on 21 October 2015 outside the South African parliament in Cape Town, standing and singing Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika with their hands in the air and being dispersed by riot police.

On Wednesday 21 October 2015 students from both the University of Cape Town as well as the Cape Peninsula University of Technology formed a crowd of around 5,000 protesters[16] marched on the South African Parliament which coincided with the meeting of the National Assembly -with both Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and President Jacob Zuma in attendance- which was in session to hear the medium-term budget. A few students managed to gain access to the parliamentary grounds. Following the finance minister's address, Nzimande tried to address the crowed but was repeatedly booed by the crowd whilst President Zuma left the Parliamentary buildings from a side entrance. Other parliamentarians were advised by the speaker of the house to wait out the protests in their offices.

Riot police moved to forcefully disperse the largely peaceful protests using stun grenades, tasers, coloured gas, riot shields and truncheons. Beating back the crowd in the process with particular protesters targeted for arrest.[17] Arrested protesters were charged with contravening the National Key Points Act. The way in which the police manhandled the largely peaceful protests was questioned by the press.[16]

Mass meetings at Stellenbosch University were held on the same day to demonstrate against fee increases.

Protest action also started at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, when students blocked the main roads onto the Summerstrand campuses.[18] At least one altercation with the police took place when tear gas and rubber bullets were used to push students back onto campus.

22 October

Students at Fort Hare University started lighting bonfires at the university's entrance and vandalised the campus security offices.[19] In Johannesburg students marched on the ruling African National Congress's (ANC) headquarters at Luthuli House where students handed over a memorandum to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.[20] Protests continued in Cape Town with students gathering at the central magistrates court to witness the court appearance of the 29 students arrested during protests outside Parliament the day before.[21]

Despite assurances by NMMU management that classes would resume on 22 October 2015, protesters continued action. This included disruption of some classes that staff and students attempted to attend.[22] A meeting was due to take place at a stadium on campus, but this was not attended by students, partly due to rumors on social media that there was a heavy police presence at the stadium.[23] Students then insisted that Vice-Chancellor meet them where they had gathered, which he refused to do, citing safety concerns of a large number of people at that location. Following the meeting, students moved to block vehicle access to campus, which lasted until approximately 18:00, trapping some staff and students on campus.[22]

23 October

In the United Kingdom a group of around 200 students gathered at Trafalgar Square in front of South Africa House to show support of protesting students in South Africa.[24] A Cape Town daily newspaper, The Cape Argus, invited student co-editors to edit the day's edition of the newspaper. Articles were written, commissioned and edited by the students involved in the #FeesMustFall protest.[25]

Classes at NMMU were cancelled,[22] and student protesters continued blocking entrances to campus. This was followed by a peaceful movement to another campus (2nd Avenue).[26]

During the morning university vice chancellors and student representatives met with President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria to negotiate a way forward. Whilst they were meeting, a large group of protesting students assembled outside the Union Buildings to await Zuma's response. A small group turned violent, setting fire to a portable toilet and breaking down fences. The police responded with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets.[27] The students themselves called for discipline stressing it was a peaceful protest.

Shortly after 3PM, President Zuma announced from within the Union Buildings that there would be no increase in university fees in 2016.[28][29][30] Whilst this was a major victory for the protest, protesters were upset that the president chose not to address them directly.[31] A number of students tried to storm the Union Buildings demanding to address Zuma. Police responded with force, using rubber bullets. After being driven out of the Union Buildings, students continued to protest in the streets.[32]


  1. ^ "Protests grow over university fee hikes | eNCA". Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  2. ^ a b Masa Kekana & Lauren Isaacs & Emily Corke (19 October 2015). "TUITION FEE PROTESTS SHUT DOWN 2 OF SA’S BIGGEST UNIVERSITIES". Eye Witness News. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  3. ^ "WITS UNIVERSITY SUSPENDS 10.5 PERCENT FEE HIKE". Eye Witness News. 17 October 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Quintal,Genevieve (19 October 2015). "What you need to know about #FeesMustFall".  
  5. ^ "What vice-chancellors at South Africa’s top universities earn". Business Tech. 20 October 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Belinda Bozzoli (19 October 2015). "Behind the university funding crisis". Democratic Alliance. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  7. ^ Munusamy, Ranjeni (21 October 2015). "#FeesMustFall: Political failure triggers ticking time bomb".  
  8. ^ a b Ziyanda Ngcobo & Thando Kubheka & Emily Corke (19 October 2015). "FRESH TUITION TALKS BEGIN AT WITS TODAY". Eye Witness News. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  9. ^  
  10. ^ Masego Rahlaga (17 October 2015). "‘NO PUNISHMENT PLANNED’ FOR PROTESTING WITS STUDENTS". Eye Witness News. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  11. ^ Carlo Petersen (19 October 2015). "UCT students to protest over fees".  
  12. ^ Christian, Imraan (20 October 2015). "Imraan Christian’s Firsthand Account of the #FeesMustFall Protest at UCT". Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  13. ^ Xolani Koyana & Masa Kekana (20 October 2015). "PROTESTS CONTINUE AT CPUT & FORT HARE, TENSIONS FLARE". Eye Witness News. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  14. ^ Berenice Moss, Lynne Arendse and Jamaine Krige (20 October 2015). "More police arrests as student protests intensify".  
  15. ^ "Students reject 6% cap, Wits remains closed for the week - As it happened".  
  16. ^ a b Political Bureau (22 October 2015). "Riot police vs student power". IOL News. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  17. ^ R Davis, S Swingler, & M VD Merwe (22 October 2015). "#FeesMustFall: The day Parliament became a war zone".  
  18. ^ "Student protests at NMMU - from the VC".  
  19. ^ "Fort Hare students run rampage". eNCA. 22 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  20. ^ "Thousands of students march on ANC headquarters".  
  21. ^ "#FeesMustFall: Students and stun grenades occupy Cape Town’s streets | Daily Maverick". Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  22. ^ a b c "NMMU student protests - update from the vice-chancellor".  
  23. ^ Benyon, Samantha. "Sam Qaqamba Beynon on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  24. ^ Vumani Mkhize (23 October 2015). "STUDENTS GATHER AT TRAFALGAR SQUARE IN LONDON". Eye Witness News. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  25. ^ "Cape Argus Friday 23 October edition". Cape Argus Online. Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  26. ^ PE Herald. "The Herald PE on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  27. ^ "Victory for #FeesMustFall students amid dramatic protest at Union Buildings". Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  28. ^ "#FeesHaveFallen: A big day in Pretoria, with a Zero outcome | Daily Maverick". Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  29. ^ "Victory for #FeesMustFall students amid dramatic protest at Union Buildings". Times LIVE. Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  30. ^ Onishi, Norimitsu (23 October 2015). "South Africa Freezes Tuition Fees After Student Protests". The New York Times Company. The New York Times. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  31. ^ "South Africa: #NationalShutDown: Live Blog - 23 October". Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  32. ^ Bongani Nkosi. "In their thousands, students of the #FeesMustFall campaign marched to the Union Buildings to have their demands heard". Retrieved 23 October 2015. 

External links

  • Student fees: facts, figures and observations - Ground Up (22 October 2015)
  • Daily Maverick Chronicle: #FeesMustFall – Violence at the Gates of Parliament (21 October 2015)
  • Imraan Christian’s Firsthand Account of the #FeesMustFall Protest at UCT (20 October 2015)
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