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South African primate joins student fee protests after his son is arrested

Posted on: October 22, 2015 11:01 AM
Police in riot gear hold students back during a protest over student fees outside the South African Parliament in Cape Town
Photo Credit: Vaughn Wright

[ACNS] The Primate of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, has taken part in protests about increases in student fees this morning (Thursday) the day after his son, Nyakallo Makgoba, was arrested for taking part in a similar protest yesterday in Cape Town.

The protests against the increased fees began last week at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg and have moved across the country, including Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Potchefstroom and Grahamstown. Yesterday, students attempted to storm the precinct of South Africa’s Parliament in Cape Town and were met by riot police who fired teargas and stun grenades.

A number of students – including the Archbishops son – were arrested during yesterday’s protest as they attempted to disrupt a budget speech by finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. Police released Nyakallo Makgoba last night; and he was due to appear in court in Cape Town today.

Some 21 years after the ending of apartheid in South Africa, black people remain in disproportionate levels of poverty. Equal access to education is seen as essential to raise the prospects and living standards of the poor. Many students say that they cannot afford the tuition fee increases of up to 11 per cent and that the increases will have the effect of barring access to higher education for people from poorer backgrounds; and will force them to remain in poverty.

“We have been reminded this past week of the challenges of financing the expansion of further education and university opportunities,” the finance minister Nhlanhla Nene said in his budget speech. “It needs to be said that disruption of learning is not constructive, neither is disruption of parliament, but minister Nzimande has rightly indicated the need to strengthen student financing further, and to find solutions where the current situation is inadequate, and government is seized with this matter.”

South Africa _ENCA_feesmustfall_

A live television news report from Wits University in Johannesburg showing Archbishop Thabo Magkoba with Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, as they join 40 other religious leaders supporting students in their #FeesMustFall campaign. Picture credit: ENCA, Johannesburg

This morning, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba returned to his own university, Wits, where the protests began, with 40 other leaders from the National Religious Association for Social Development, to stand in solidarity with the students.

“I appeal to bishops and parishioners in all our dioceses to support students and staff at tertiary institutions, and to pray for an amicable resolution to the crisis,” Archbishop Makgoba said in a statement to bishops and other leaders of the Anglican Church today. “Apart from holding prayer vigils, I appeal to our churches to give practical help to students in distress.

“I also call on everyone involved in the protests to avoid the use of force, and on the police to take action which is strictly proportionate to any threats they may face.

“Government leaders should refuse pay rises as a symbolic expression of their concern. And they have bailed out parastatals [state-controlled industries] in trouble; could they not now bail out our students and institutions, at least for a year, while a lasting solution is sought?

“These are our children, as parents we need to act. Thank you for your prayers.”