“Get out of the room before somebody dies‚” one of the organisers shouted in a dramatic appeal as chaos erupted at a forum in Johannesburg on Saturday called to discuss problems faced by students in higher education.
Pandemonium erupted when students began attacking one another and hurling chairs and bottles at each other after constantly disrupting proceedings.
Attempts by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and University of the Witwatersrand vice-chancellor Adam Habib to address the unruly crowd were drowned out by chanting students.
At the Higher Education National Convention in Midrand Eskom convention centre…Students are fighting for free education.🎓 pic.twitter.com/X7avBBSPEJ
— Nomfundo Zwane (@NomfundoKaZwane) March 18, 2017
Proceedings at the Higher National Convention in Midrand had to be halted several times as security and the organisers attempted to restore order and shortly as fighting erupted between the various students factions.
Shortly after 1pm‚ the organisers announced that they had no option but to postpone the forum‚ saying it was impossible in the tense climate to continue. Earlier‚ the Afriforum students’ organisation said it was considering leaving the forum after death threats.
Other student organisations intimated that they were unable and not willing to talk to the Afriforum student leaders.
The forum’s organisers had their hands full from the outset trying to keep control of proceedings because of constant disruptions.
The forum got off to a rowdy start with students heckling the opening speaker‚ judge and former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Although he was able to complete his address‚ he was forced to stop speaking several times owing to disruptions‚
Some students had indicated earlier that they did not want Nzimande to address them. They also stated that they did not want just another “talk shop”‚ charging that that was all that had been taking place for the past three years.
“We don’t just want more talk – we want answers from government to our demands‚” one angry student shouted.
The students are demanding free education and that it be “decolonised”.
They are also demanding that charges be withdrawn against leaders arrested during the #FeesMustFall campaign.
Many of them complained that they were not “properly engaged” on the agenda of the convention.