Shame on students

Shame on students

BAD MOVE: Protesters have lost support among members of the public after their violent clashes with police in city. CREDIT: Ayanda Ndamane

#FeesMustFall protesters bite hand that feeds 'em.

Shame on you. You know who you are.

Yes you, the “students” who behaved like skollies, turning the city centre upside down on Wednesday, as Minister Pravin Gordhan was delivering his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in Parliament.

In scenes reminiscent of the poo protests, hooligans smashed cars, police van windows, vandalised shops, burnt dirtbins and stoned law enforcement.

Terrified people ran for cover, some were stranded as Golden Arrow and Metrorail were forced to temporarily suspend services.

Earlier in the week, 10 vehicles had been torched at three campuses around the city.

After the arson attacks, student and #FeesMustFall leaders were quick to distance themselves from the violence.

They insisted that their campaign is a non-violent one, and suggested that a third force was trying to sabotage their fight for free education.

Yes, you’ll always find opportunistic criminal elements who will hijack a cause in order to catch on k**.

But there was no confusion about who was responsible for the destruction in the CBD.

These were students – from universities across the country.

It was really disappointing to witness.

Wednesday’s protest was meant to be a mass mobilisation of students to Parliament, an opportunity to deliver a powerful and meaningful message to our leaders.

And they got what they came for – Gordhan himself came out to meet with the students and accepted their memorandum.

But instead of engaging with the Minister, they shouted him down and he returned to the national assembly.

Protesters then burnt a cardboard coffin bearing Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s picture.

Then all hell broke loose as students and cops clashed.

It was an opportunity lost. Gordhan had showed a willingness to address the issue.

In his speech, he later said Treasury would set aside R8 billion towards zero fee increases next year.

And an additional R9b for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you…

Student leaders must evaluate what happened. What did they achieve?

One thing is certain, many will no longer be supporting their cause.

And it’s a shame as the cost of education is a critical issue.

With government showing a willingness to compromise and negotiate, this could be a turning point in the protest.

Years from now, we could tell our children that 2016 was the year that the students secured their access to education.

But the events of this week could change everything.

There’s a word for all of this – terrorism.

International authorities define terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”.

And we know that governments, as a rule, refuse to negotiate with terrorists.

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