Location: Union Buildings, Pretoria, South Africa
On assignment for Forbes Africa Magazine to cover the #FeesMustFall campaign
We went expecting drama, and we got it. On the back of the growing #FeesMustFall campaign, thousands of University students protested on the banks of the Union Buildings in an effort to reduce fee increases which were set to rise as much as 10%.
As the bangs of of stun grenades met the cheers of students taunting police, Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, met with University officials and student leaders to negotiate terms. It was a case of too little too late as an isolated group of 50 students ran riot, fueled by frustration, setting toilets, cars and tyres alight. The group tore down the fence blockading the national landmark and pelted police with wrenches, rocks and pretty much anything they could find.
By the time tear gas canisters were launched into the air, the president was to announce that an settlement of a 0% fee increase for 2016 was reached. The crowd was yet to be informed.
The scene was bizarre. Among all this violence, the atmosphere beyond was light hearted and relaxed. I caught a number of students, standing next to the inferno, with people launching projectiles over the fence, posing for selfies.
It was unfortunate that the thousands of other students, who were for the most part peacefully attending the protest, were caught in the peppery gas. In my view, the crowd was dispersed in the nick of time: I had seen three students preparing petrol bombs from an the abandoned generator left behind by the TV. Things could have gotten far worse.
“This was the moment the police line broke and all hell broke loose” says Photojournalist @jaycaboz on his photo taken today at the #UnionBuildings #FeesMustFall protests. This on the back of President Jacob Zuma agreeing to a 0% fee increase for 2016.
A small group of students led the violence outside the Union Buildings. The tension grew as the crowd got bolder, beginning with burning tyres and throwing projectiles.
Students then grabbed toilets and set those alight.
Among the bizarre, were students posing for selfies while behind them more fuel was fed to the inferno.
More posing for the camera, while the smoke engulfs the hill.
Illustrating my point. Here are students standing with a placard…
…next to them are other students throwing rocks at the police.
This was the moment the police line broke and all hell broke loose. After a wave of rocks, wrenches and bottles were thrown at them the police were forced back. Seconds later, the razor wire barrier came.
After the students gained their foothold they began to destroy the police vehicles, ultimately leading to the tear gas.
Students flee from the tear gas.