Powerful #FeesMustFall images from South Africa

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.

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“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.

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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.

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Students then grabbed toilets and set those alight.

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Among the bizarre, were students posing for selfies while behind them more fuel was fed to the inferno.

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More posing for the camera, while the smoke engulfs the hill.

 

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Illustrating my point. Here are students standing with a placard…

 

 

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…next to them are other students throwing rocks at the police.

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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.

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After the students gained their foothold they began to destroy the police vehicles, ultimately leading to the tear gas.

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Students flee from the tear gas.

 




 

 

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EFF protest against R600,000 IEB deposit

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While Oscar Pistorius stood in the Pretoria High Court, members of the EFF party gathered half a block away to protest the South African election boards’ R600,000 candidate deposit fee. the up-and-coming elections will be contested in May this year.  Standing in the pouring rain the EFF cleverly made use of the international media, present for the trial.
In their view, the fee is a means of gate keeping smaller parties from participating in the elections. Shot at 1/1000 f4 ISO 1600 at 24mm

The Miners are Coming – Photo Essay on Platinum Strike

It was a large gathering of  3,000 AMCU union members that sang and danced inside the Wonderkop Stadium in Marikana last week.

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The meeting marked the first day that 100,000 miners in South Africa’s platinum industry downed tools in a bid for, among other incentives, a minimum of R12,500. Shot at 1/800 f4 with 24-105mm lens and the ND filter.

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The Wonderkop Stadium, there is a long barbed wire fence that has been erected since last years strike in May. Shot at 1/8000 f1,4 with 50mm lens and the ND filter.

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It has been two years since the same miners went on strike on August 16, 2012. The scene in which 44 people were killed below a hill, now infamously known as the Marikana Massacre. Since then the platinum industry has been plagued with wildcat strikes. Mines can lose an estimate of R100 million each day it fails to operate. Shot at 1/8000 f1,4 with 50mm lens and the ND filter.

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So it was with no real surprise that when the miners gathered last week, there was an air of anticipation. In the sweltering heat leader of AMCU Joseph Mathunjwa addressed the crowd. Shot at 1/1000 f1,4 with 50mm lens and the ND filter.

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Shot with the 24-105mm 1/1000 f4.0

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Shot at 1/3200 f1,4 with 50mm lens and the ND filter. I really love how the shallow depth of field isolates figures in a crowd.

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Shot at 1/8000 f1,4 with 50mm lens and the ND filter.

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Shot at 1/3200 f1,4 with 50mm lens and the ND filter.

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Shot at 1/500 f1,4 with 50mm lens and the ND filter.

No Fracking Way- Photo Essay

Forbes Life – photo essay published in October, issue

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It’s covered with the branches of hundreds of thousands of dust weary bone-dry four-inch high scrub. This is the Karoo, southern South Africa’s desert, which has changed little in millions of years. A desert that creaks to its own song carried on the wind through rusted windmills and crags of prehistoric rock. To some it’s just a desert. But the South African Government sees a valuable resource beneath, shale gas that could be worth R1 trillion in the next 30 years. But to farmers living in on this land, the Karoo is a livelihood.  This is the battle over fracking and these are the voices of those standing defiantly in its way.

Derek Light is a small-town lawyer from Graaff-Reinet who sees himself as a defender of his birthplace. When Light first took fracking to court, in 2008, he represented one farmer. Five years later, he represents thousands, including Johann Rupert, the second richest man in Africa, who lives on a farm nearby.
According to Light, fracking will scar the land. It will leave huge well pads every 5km connected by a patchwork of roads.
“I remember around two years ago, of all the people interviewed in the urban areas, 50% knew about fracking and of them, 15% knew what fracking really was. So ,I think it’s a question of if it doesn’t affect you, nobody cares.”
“The mining industry in the country has a shocking track record. There is a lack of observance of the laws as they are. There is inadequate financial provision made for rehabilitation. Inevitably for this country, the taxpayer has cleaned up the mess. The mining companies will spend money on what earns them money. They are not inclined to spend money on something that doesn’t generate income… No one can really give an answer as to whether we need this resource and if that cost is justified.”

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The Valley of Desolation, a national park on the outskirts of Graaff-Reinet, Karoo

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Farmhouse between Graaff-Reinet and Jasenville, Karoo

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Abandoned train station, Graaff-Reinet

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Graaff-Reinet center square, home to one of the oldest churches in South Africa.

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The Gem of the Karoo, 2013: Graaff-Reinet, known as the gem of the Karoo, was established in 1786. It is here, in the heart of the Karoo, that the anti-fracking movement began in 2008, led by small town lawyer Derek Light.
“The problem is that the process of explorative fracking is not normal. It’s invasive and has the potential to destroy the environment,” says Light.
“It’s moving as quickly as the oil and gas companies are allowed to move. And we’ve said no. We didn’t make the same mistake that the United States made. They allowed it to happen and then tried to regulate it.”

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The Karoo is a semi-desert region

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“The amount of energy and effort that has to go into this particular resource, given the estimated lifespan, is disproportionate… we’ve already used up the gold reserves in this country. To take something that has spent millions of years to form and then to extract it in the space of 15-20 years, with no guarantee of leaving the environment in a decent state, is an uneconomical gamble,” says farmer Jeremy Harper.
Harper worked for six years as an exploration geophysicist before moving back to his mother’s farm, Sandkraal, 30 years ago.
“One of the aspects in mineral exploration that I was glad to leave behind was the sense that, while one is involved, you are party to the pillaging of the planet.
My sense of reality says it ultimately will happen. It would be a sad day and the people in authority of this country should be indicted if they enable it to happen before there are cast iron guarantees,” he declares. Sandkraal is within the explorative fracking zone targeted by Shell.

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Camdeboo National Park, Karoo

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Sunset, Aberdeen District

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Fifty-five-year-old Dickie Ogilvie gave up teaching to help his wife, Colleen, take over her brother’s farm. Doorndraai is 100km south-west of Graaff-Reinet. Ogilvie’s fears of fracking led him to pledge R3 [R1=$0.10] for every hectare of his 14,000 hectare farm for the battle. Farmers across the Karoo are following suit.
“Some guys have given a lump sum payment. Most of the money is per hectare basis, from 20c to 50c up to R2-R3 depending on how strongly they feel about fracking. It might sound like a lot of money, but it’s actually nothing. If I lose my property, at the end of the day it’s not money at all, we’ve lost everything,” he says.
“My big concern, particularly in the Aberdeen district, is the apathy of a lot of the farmers. There are a lot that have pledged, there are a lot that haven’t and they are actually not even interested.”

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Aberdeen, Karoo

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Many of the roads leading to farms are deep off main roads. Sometimes you will have to travel through two or three farms to reach your destination

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Marlin De-Jager’s farm Van Eckskraal

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De-Jager’s drive-way, Karoo

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Born in Aberdeen, 50km south-west of Graaff-Reinet, Marlin De-Jager grew up in a colored township under apartheid.
He was raised by a single parent from the age of three, after his father abandoned. After a brawl at a rugby game, while in grade eight, he decided to skip town. He found himself struggling in the Western Cape Province digging a train tunnel along the Hex River.
Last year, after 20 years of saving, he bought his own farm—a 3,000 hectare plot—for R4.2 million ($420,000).
“As an emerging farmer, I want to become a commercial farmer. One day, I want to see my son and his children also becoming commercial farmers,” he says.
“I’m only a drop in the ocean. I am trying to convince the colored community about my concerns with fracking. Our people are mostly small farmers. I sat and asked them about fracking. They said ‘we haven’t got land so why must we worry?’ That is their view. I don’t think they understand what will happen,” he laments.
The emerging farmer intends to fight. He says he doesn’t want to see the farm he spent so long saving for, destroyed, before his son takes over.

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Aloe tree, Karoo

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Mountain range, Karoo

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Bleached tree, Karoo

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Karoo

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Doug Stern’s family has lived on their farm, Rietpoort, since 1948. The third-generation famer, who is also chairman of AGRI East Cape, represents 3,000 farmers in the Karoo. Stern has seen the damage of fracking in Pennsylvania, United States.
“You are not only dealing with a water-scarce country, but a particularly water-scarce area. The Karoo is dependent on boreholes for our very existence. If you are going to contaminate the water it’s going to be devastating to our communities. You can do without gas, you can do without electricity but you cannot do without water. It’s the stuff of life,” he says
Stern believes that 20 million liters of water is needed to dig one hole for fracking. One well can drill up to 32 holes, he says.
“The industry to date has not revealed where they are going to access this water. They keep telling us they are going to use sea water, they keep telling us they are going to drill for gas well below the water’s surface. I don’t trust them.”
“I was rather surprised about the lack of knowledge in the cities, such as Johannesburg. What shocked me the most was when people from the corporate world didn’t even know where the Karoo was. That’s a fact. I was horrified. Most of the businessmen I talked to asked why they should care. They were told the value of getting this energy game-breaker was far more important than the value of the Karoo,” claims Stern.

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Road to Doug Stern’s farm twilight, Karoo

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Carcass, Karoo

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Carcass II, Karoo: Matt Ash, director of Norton Rose Fulbright Sub-Saharan Africa energy, says the South African government wants gas to play a big part in its National Development Plan (NDP) for 2030, which estimates that the country will need 41,346MW of new power. The country has around 33,000MW.
The controversy over fracking, according to Ash, stems from the country not having any fracking regulations.
“Under the present framework, a landowner is obliged to give mineral rights holder’s free and unfretted access to the land without compensation for the unhindered exploration of mineral resources. However, only a land owner can apply for rezoning of property appropriate for the mining activity concerned. The land owner can refuse to rezone on environmental grounds.”

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Road to Doug Stern’s farm sunset, Karoo

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Wild cotton bush, Karoo: On the other side of the coin, in North Dakota, United States, oil-fracking is seen as a boon. From 2005 to 2011, it helped the state’s economy grow from $4.4 billion to $30.5 billion. Eight thousand wells, producing more than 820,000 barrels a day was merely the start. The number of wells will grow to 50,000.
Among the landowners of North Dakota, 2,000 new millionaires are made every year, according to Bruce Gjovig, founder of the Center for Innovation at the University of North Dakota. Oil royalties range from $50,000 to $100,000 a month.
The quest for oil has drawn thousands from across America to towns like Watford City, which has grown from 1,700 to 10,000, according to estimates in March.

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R63 to Graaff-Reinet

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Jean and John Watermeyer were children playing in the dirt of Graaf¬f-Reinet when World War II was declared. They lived to see their children and grandchildren farm in the Karoo.
“I have been here all my life; it’s a wonderful part of the world to live in. From an agriculture point of view, from a stock point of view, it’s a magnificent resource. You can breed you own stock, you don’t have to go and buy. It’s the perfect environment for farming,” says John.
“We depend entirely upon rain, and we don’t get much of it. If we have a five- or six-year drought after they leave it will be disastrous… If something comes to disturb all the growth, it’s going to break the spirit of an awful lot of farmers… If it’s just going to be used in another country, then why are we destroying this country to support them,” says Jean.

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Sealed gun powder storehouse, Graaff-Reinet

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Unnamed Road

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Aloe tree II, Karoo

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Graaff-Reinet

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Abandoned public pool, Graaff-Reinet

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From London to Perth people have been fighting police, clashing with truck drivers and super gluing themselves to fences all against fracking. In South Africa the debate is still in its infancy. Fracking in Australia, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland and the United States has provoked violence. In France it was banned, Tunisia soon followed.
One of the most violent protests came in Balcombe, a small town in West Sussex, Britain. British oil and gas exploration firm Cuadrilla, built a test well to take samples of rock.
The people of the Karoo are the latest to join the battle. According to Julius Kleynhans, head of environmental affairs at AfriForum, one in five South Africans have heard about fracking.
“At the moment the government is doing nothing. It’s refusing to address the public outcry. They are just power drilling their wants through,” he says.
“Why would they care if the Karoo was contaminated? What they were told was the value of getting this energy game-breaker gas was far more important than the value of the Karoo. The fact that the Eastern Cape has a third of the country’s livestock population; I cannot tell you how important this part of the country plays in production. We also produce more wool, mohair and ostriches than any other party of the country and 25% of the citrus in the country,” says Stern.
You can be sure this time next year many more Africans will know what fracking is and how it could shake their lives.

Netcare does NOTcare???

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In the far off distance you can hear it coming. The season gives off a distinct echo off the windows of buildings. You can tell it’s here when a white Nissan Bakkie, overloaded with amps, invariably turns around a corner followed by the sounds of hundreds of people singing in unison.

It’s one of the weirdest seasons in the Johannesburg calendar , and it’s not based on the browning of leaves or chilly morning sun rises. Its strike season.

Whereas carnivals and festivals in European countries can stop traffic for a day, the South African strike has become synonymous with bringing a city to a standstill. It is a festival like no other.

Journalists either hate them or love them. I fall into the latter. There is excitement. There is action. You have people who are prepared to block the streets to scream their grievances to the world.

Honestly it’s always a thrilling thing to get caught up in the moment. You feel like you are part of a mass unit. You want to sing along. You pick up on the atmosphere of the crowd and feel enlivened by their energy.

But secretly, as a journalist, you become bored of watching the same event unfold in a different location. The trick for me is that I look for something new every time. It’s a photographic challenge to produce something when you can predict what’s going to happen next on the road. I actually get more of a kick out of seeing something different in my photographs than I do at the real event. It’s even a common thing among people who cover these stories often to wish for a gun fight to ensue. (I am not saying I am one of them, but I am not going to deny it either. )

In spite of my colourful introduction, I feel like I have to say that I take strikes very seriously. People might seem like they are having a glorious time out dancing, but for a South African, protest has a violent history and you as a journalist always have to be aware that there is a subtle undercurrent of this. In the end Journo’s do care when it comes to strike season. But I think a lot of the time it’s for the wrong reasons.

You have to be able to distance yourself from the action and focus on what’s at hand…a story.
In this instance, members of NEHAWU, a major labour union in the country, were posing a nationwide strike for an 11% wage increase against a company called Netcare (a company involved in private hospital care). According to the people I was talking to, they work long hours for a basic income of R5000 a month. They have been for the past six years working at this rate. Five years ago, this would not have been much of a problem. But with the heavy increases in transport, electricity and food costs within the country it’s become very hard to sustain a lifestyle within Johannesburg.

(Believe me I know, I have lived off that amount for a few years, not so long ago.)

One of the things that struck me at the protest was that they were not talking about how “fat cat” money earners were pulling in millions of Rands of profit in the business. Leaders were talking about how they didn’t see the sense of “executive breakfasts” or “Irish coffee’s for tea”. These are small things that could help prevent a budget from being blown out of proportion. Just think how much money a business could save if it didn’t spend that extra cash on a smoked salmon every day.

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IFP is no laugh-off matter SABC

IPF members march to the SABC stations in Auckland Park in protest of ‘bias and anit-IFP broadcasting’, September 14.

By Jay Caboz

Around 1500 supporters, mainly from the Inkhatha Freedom Party (IFP), blocked traffic as they made their way to the South African Broadcasting Station (SABC) in a mass protest for fairness from the public broadcaster.


Mungosuthu Buthelezi, head of the IFP, led the large gathering of supporters through Johannesburg CBD to the entrance of the SABC Studios in Auckland Park on Friday September 14.

The IFP leader noted that this was “a matter which goes to the heart of how the citizens of this country can freely make up their own minds as to whom they wish to govern them”.

“South Africans must demand of their public broadcaster that they be treated with respect and not force-fed and manipulated with political propaganda.”

Supporters sported bottles, knobkerries and shields as they made their way along Enoch Sontonga Avenue alongside the University of the Witwatersrand.

One supporter said they were marching to express their outrage that Julius Malema had been banned by the SABC. Another said the media only chose to report their (IFP) actions when they ‘made noise with the ANC’ so they were making some.

Buthelezi addressed the crowd and said that bias within the SABC was not surprising.

“Since 1994, the ANC in Parliament has hand-picked every SABC board member, and the ANC has had the final say in the appointment of all executive officers of the SABC. Thus political interference has been built into the system and ruthlessly exploited by the ANC-alliance.”

“For years, the IFP has continuously engaged the SABC over its anti-IFP coverage and the way in which opposition parties are not fairly represented on all of the public broadcaster’s radio and television channels. This year, for example, two of the IFP’s three major events – its Freedom Day and Women’s Day rally – did not receive TV coverage at all. This is coupled with anti-IFP programmes that have been aired, such as The Bang Bang Club.”

A memorandum was handed over to by the IFP outside the SABC station in Auckland Park without incident.

Standing in protest against violence in society

By Jay Caboz

Around 150 Wits staff, some in academic gowns, and students gathered outside the Bertha Road pedestrian entrance to observe South Africa’s national day of mourning on Thursday 23 August.

George Bizos, left, joins Wits registrar Kirti Menon, centre, and Asawu President, David Dickinson, in a march against violence. Pic: Jay Caboz

George Bizos, one of South Africa’s most distinguished human rights advocates joined the gathering together with Wits Registrar Kirti Menon, Prof Tawana Kupe, Dean of Humanities, and Prof David Dickinson, President of the Academic and Support Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU).

In a statement released by Prof Yunus Ballim, acting Vice-Chancellor and vice-Principal, the gathering was called as a public display from the University “against the ongoing violence gripping society” and to “encourage the public to stand up for social justice.”

The national day of mourning was declared by the South African government in memorial of the lives lost in the violence at Marikana and Pomeroy these past few weeks.

In commemoration of the lives of the 44 miners killed, students and academics stood on the pavement holding placards one of which said: “mourning all the victims of violence” as well as declaring the event as “our collective shame”.

A National Day of Mourning was declared by President Jacob Zuma. Memorials were held across the province and several streets in Johannesburg Central Business District were closed.

From Monday, the University has been flying its flag at half-mast also in remembrance of the lives lost.

Marchers line up along Jan Smuts Avenue in Braamfontein. Pic: Jay Caboz

Wits staff and students took to the pavements to protest violence in society. Pic: Jay Caboz