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Zuma not obliged to address students: Mantashe

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ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe says President Jacob Zuma was not obliged to address university students who had gathered at the Union Buildings on Friday.

“There was no rally convened by President Zuma today,” Mantashe told broadcaster eNCA.

“President Zuma convened a meeting of vice-chancellors and leaders of students councils to have a discussion. They have done that, they reached an agreement and that has been announced to the nation.”

On Friday afternoon, chaos erupted at the Union Bulidings’ south lawns when police officers clashed with angry students who had waited all day to be addressed by Zuma on their demand that there be no fee increments for the 2016 academic year.

Zuma had met with vice-chancellors from various universities as well as student leaders on Friday morning to discuss the best solution, following a national protest led by varsity students who were against proposed fee increases for 2016.

A group of impatient students began pulling apart the fencing which stood between them and the Union Buildings, which eventually led to a clash with police officers in riot gear.

Stun grenades were fired and two fires were put out during the clash.

More chaos ensued later in the afternoon when Zuma announced, in a media room inside the Union Buildings, that a consensus had been reached during the meeting that there would be a 0% fee increase next year.

Thousands of furious students said Zuma had disrespected them by not coming to address them directly, after they had come all the way to the Union Buildings.

A number of police nyalas were deployed to disperse the crowd and police officers were seen firing rubber bullets at the students that had gathered there.

Fleeing students could be seen running into the streets of Pretoria, with the nyalas still following them and officers still shooting at them.

Mantashe, however, said the students should be commended for conducting their #FeesMustFall campaign in a dignified manner. He said there had been isolated incidents of violence throughout the 10 day long campaign.

“We must give credit where it s due, they [protests] were not violent,” Mantashe said.

“In the majority of cases, 17 universities out of 26 participated in this campaign, and you can count isolated instances of violence. Therefore these protests were conducted in a very dignified way.” News24

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