IFP statement on the Wits student protests over financial exclusion

We extend our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of the individual who tragically died after police fired rubber bullets during a student protest at the University of Witwatersrand’s (Wits) Braamfontein Campus in Johannesburg today.

The IFP welcomes the deployment of four investigative officers of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to Wits to probe this matter. We call on IPID to swiftly investigate any SAPS involvement in the tragic killing of this individual, and further, to investigate the conduct of SAPS officers in firing rubber bullets at this particular protest.

There must be consequences for such actions taken by police officers. The family of the deceased deserve closure around the cause of death of their loved one, and the assurance that justice will be served.

The IFP, IFP Youth Brigade and our student wing, the South African Democratic Students’ Movement (SADESMO), fully support the students of Wits and students of other institutions of higher learning who are lending their support by protesting in solidarity with the Wits student protest over financial exclusion – as students with historical debt are unable to register at the institution.

We call on Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, to urgently set up a meeting with the Wits Vice-Chancellor, Council and the Student Representative Council (SRC) to address this impasse, and to find amicable and financially-viable solutions to allow students to register.

Thousands of students are still not able to register at Wits – and other institutions – because of financial exclusion and historical debt. These students do not qualify for funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and they have nowhere else to turn. Despite the financial assurances made by Wits in setting aside some money for students with debt, it is not enough to assist all students who require this aid.

Former President Jacob Zuma and the ANC promised students free higher education and training during the #FeesMustFall protests years ago, and that is exactly why students feel that historical debt should not be a barrier to entry when registering to study.

It is regrettable and deeply worrying that NSFAS is in financial disarray and cannot provide any form of relief to students as it deals with its own internal management issues.

We stand in solidarity with all qualifying and deserving students who are facing multiple barriers to gain entry into our institutions.

Furthermore, the IFP urges all students to exercise their right to protest in a peaceful manner. We call on all students to refrain from violence and not to retaliate when provoked.

Mthokozisi Nxumalo, MP
IFP Spokesperson on Higher Education and Training
IFP Youth Brigade National Chairperson
072 819 5153