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South Africans protest in solidarity with embattled finance minister | Coastweek

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- Students celebrate [left] outside of Hilbrow Magistrate Court after the release of eight detained students during the ongoing protest on University tuition fees in Johannesburg, South Africa. Policemen stand [right]  in front of the singing and dancing students of the University of Witwatersrand. The latest wave of student protests has continued for weeks since universities were given the green light by the government last month to raise tuition fees, provided that it does not exceed eight percent. XINHUA PHOTOS - ZHAI JIANLAN

South Africans protest in solidarity with embattled finance minister

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said on Thursday that it will stage a protest in solidarity with embattled Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

EFF leader Julius Malema told a press briefing in Johannesburg that the protest will take place on November 2, the day when Gordhan appears in court to face fraud charges.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) summoned Gordhan on Tuesday, ordering him to appear in court to face charges in relation to the "rogue unit" he set up when he was commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) between 1999 and 2009.

Gordhan is accused of unlawfully setting up the unit. But he has denied the accusation, saying the unit was lawfully established to perform very important functions for and on behalf of SARS.

The EFF and other political parties have voiced support for Gordhan, saying they believed that he is innocent.

Malema said President Jacob Zuma and the wealthy Indian Gupta family, which allegedly keeps close ties with Zuma, want to force Gordhan to resign and replace him with a puppet and loot the state resources.

Malema said the protest is also designed to force Zuma to step down.

"Jacob Zuma must immediately step down as President and Head of State in South Africa.

"The Guptas must be disconnected from all state contracts and immediately leave South Africa," Malema said.

He also urged Shaun Abrahams, the NPA head, to immediately resign.

Malema accused the Gupta family of siphoning resources from the country’s state-owned enterprises.

Malema said the EFF also wants to use the protest to press demand for free education in the country’s universities.

He said the EFF is in solidarity with protesting students who are calling for zero percent fee increase for 2017 and free education onwards.

The Guptas have been accused of exerting influence on Zuma in the appointment of cabinet ministers.

But the Guptas have denied the accusation, saying they have fallen victim to internal political struggle in South Africa.

Malema said they have already applied and got permission to protest on November 2.


Classes resume following weeks of violent student protests in South Africa

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- Classes resumed on Wednesday in some of the universities hard hit by violent student protests over fee increases across the country, although not all classes were up and running fully.

Some campuses, however, are still experiencing protests including intimidation and violence, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande said.

He welcomed the resumption of classes and urged all stakeholders to work tirelessly to save this year’s academic programme.

A new wave of student protests erupted last month after Nzimande gave the green light to universities to raise tuition fees, provided that it does not exceed eight percent.

Dozens of students have been arrested for suspected involvement in acts of violence, including the burning of public properties and looting.

In some universities, police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse protesting students.

In the Cape Town University of Technology, a building was torched after students locked two security guards inside the building.

The guards were later rescued.

"This barbaric behavior and some we have witnessed in some campuses is unacceptable and should be rejected by society," Nzimande said.

In the Wits University in Johannesburg, protests extended to the city centre over the past few days. During the protests, a bus was torched and shops looted.

The horrific scenes "is a clear demonstration that criminality has infiltrated student’s genuine demands", Nzimande said.

This kind of behaviour only serves to undermine the legitimate call by students for free education for the poor, he said.

The Department of Higher Education and Training has been working with a number of institutions and stakeholders to try to find innovative ways for the resumption of the 2016 academic programme.

These engagements have proven to be fruitful, although some campuses are still experiencing protests including intimidation and violence, according to Nzimande.

"We are grateful for all efforts by stakeholders who have been engaging in a number of campuses.

"As we have said before, access to higher education, especially for the poor, is a societal problem.

"The only way to salvage the situation is commitment to dialogue," he said.

The minister said the government remains committed to providing free education to the poor, however this must be subjected to a process, as led by the Presidential Commission chaired by Justice Jonathan Heher.

"Government would not like to see our students learning under conditions where a police officer is placed at the door of a classroom or police roaming around our campuses," he said.

Campuses are places of learning not for policing, similarly not for violence, intimidation and destruction of property, the minister added.

He defended the move to deploy police at universities hard hit by student protests, saying the police are there to protect the rights of protesting students and non-protesting students who want to go back to class and continue learning.

On Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma set up a ministerial task team to assist in efforts to address the challenges on campuses.

Nzimande pledged to work with the task team and all stakeholders to ensure that "we do everything in our power to save the 2016 academic programme".

"Student protests have been hijacked by opportunistic elements" say ANC

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The ongoing student protests over fee increases have been hijacked by opportunistic elements, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said on Thursday.

The ANC issued the statement following the arrests of several individuals, who are not students, for inciting violence during the student protests that have gripped a number of universities for weeks across the country.

This is a clear indication that these protests have been hijacked by "sinister opportunistic elements" and are no longer solely concerned with the very real dilemma of the cost of education, ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said.

It is with grave concern that the ANC has noted the protests in the name of free education in various higher education institutions across the country, he said.

"While the ANC-led government remains committed to ensuring equitable access to education and free education for the poor, we condemn in the harshest possible terms the continuing attempts to disrupt classes and what remains of the academic year at various campuses," Kodwa said.

The ANC-led government is delivering on its commitment to ensuring that no child from poor and working class backgrounds will be denied access to education, he said.

To this end, the government has implemented fee-free schools at basic education level and the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) in higher education to afford the poorest access education, said Kodwa.

Further measures are currently underway to interrogate broader issues affecting the funding of higher education and the feasibility of making higher education and training fee free in South Africa, he said.

The ANC calls on all stakeholders to return to the negotiation table, where in good faith, a collective resolution to the current impasse can be found, Kodwa said.

Although classes have resumed in some universities, sporadic protests continued on Thursday.

Student leaders have threatened to paralyze higher institutions of learning if their demand for zero percent fee increase is not met.

South African Wits University to hold assembly on re-opening class

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- After three weeks of protests by students across the country calling for free education, University of Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg will on Friday hold a general assembly to decide whether to re-open class.

If consensus is not reached during the assembly, the institution could be forced to shut down completely, said Vice Chancellor Adam Habib Thursday.

Habib told Xinhua that if the university "is not teaching and is not doing research, then there is no purpose that it will be open."

According to Habib, general assemblies were called only when there were issues of national importance which the university wanted to put its position on.

Habib said it was not a debating platform, but a very formal one, preceded by negotiations, which were taking place during the week.

He hoped that that all members of the Wits would arrive at a consensual position.

On Thursday morning, hundreds of Wits students attempted to march from the medical school to the main campus in Braamfontein, but police halted them as they do not have a permit to march.

South Africa unemployment rate exceeds 25 percent

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s unemployment rate increased from 23.7 percent in 2009 to 25.3 percent in 2015, according to data released on Tuesday.

During the period, the number of long-term unemployed persons increased by 828, 000, accounting for 88 percent of the increase in the total number of the unemployed, Statistics South Africa said in its Labour Market Dynamics report.

Those who have been unemployed for more than five years increased from just over one million to 1.5 million over the period, said the report.

Meanwhile, the share of youth employed in the formal sector declined from 72 percent in 2009 to 70.3 percent in 2015, while the share of those employed in private households decreased from 6.4 percent to 5.3 percent and the share of those in the informal sector increased from 16.4 percent to 17.9 percent.

Nationally, 50.9 percent of unemployed youth had no previous work experience. Gauteng Province (56.5 percent) has the highest proportion of unemployed youth with no work experience, whilst Northern Cape (35.4 percent) had the lowest.



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