Man dies during student protest at Wits’ Braamfontein campus earlier today

Picture: @ForceLew, Twitter
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A man has died during the clash between police and a group of Wits student protesters at the Braamfontein campus today. It’s alleged that police were firing rubber bullets.

According to reports, the deceased was allegedly a civilian and not part of the protests. Wits University released an official statement earlier to offer their condolences and condemn the acts of violence.

According to the statement, the man was caught in the clash between the protesters and SAPS. However, the cause of his death has yet to be confirmed.

“Wits University is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a 35-year-old man in the Braamfontein CBD outside of the institution this morning,” the statement read.

It is further reported that two student reporters were also injured during the incident. While three protesters were arrested and taken to the Hillbrow Police Station.

The tertiary institute further stated that queries surrounding the fatal incident should be directed at SAPS “as they were on the scene and were managing the matter as a public order incident”.

 

The recent protest comes after Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Blade Nzimande’s speech on Monday, and is also a response to the delay in academic funding and communication from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

With the academic year starting soon, many first-time entering students are patiently waiting for an answer from the financial aid scheme, as they have yet to confirm funding for 2021 first-year students.

As a result of the delay, Nzimande has even organised with the public universities to extend their registration periods by two weeks.

“…we had an extended academic year, which we did not allocate additional money for,” said Nzimande in his speech. Here he referred to the fact that NSFAS had to provide allowances to its beneficiaries even after the academic year ended.

Also in his speech, Nzimande stated that because of budget cuts and a “deteriorating economic situation” (which is largely and not exclusively due to Covid-19), many NSFAS applicants who previously did not qualify for funding, are now eligible.

He added, “…not all these shortfalls are due to Covid-19 alone. The deteriorating economic situation associated with budget cuts had started long before Covid-19.

“In terms of the laws and policies regulating the public finances for departments and entities, including the Public Finance Management Act, NSFAS is not able to commit to funding students without the requisite budget available to support this commitment.”

Nzimande continued to say that he was “pleased” to announce and confirm that returning students who meet academic and other relevant criteria would be funded by NSFAS.

The minister also noted that the Minister of Finance – Tito Mboweni – in his budget vote speech mentioned that the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) should “work with the national treasury to identify policy and funding options to be detailed in the medium-term budget policy statement.”

Such options will be presented to the cabinet today for its consideration and approval.