The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) condemns the use of brute force by the South African Police Services (SAPS) members against protesting students from the University of Witwatersrand. The violence by the SAPS resulted in the death of an innocent bystander who was not part of the protest.

For the past two days students have been protesting for funding and access for deserving students. This comes after many students especially first year students have been unable to access funding to get education at the university. Police have been known to be highhanded against students and many protesting students have been at the receiving end of police brutality. On the 14th October 2020 the police elected to use highhanded tactics to disperse students who were marching peaceful as part of a march organised by the South African Students Congress (SASCO).

As NEHAWU, we find it abhorrent that in this day of our democracy we still have police that treat peaceful marchers like it is still the dark days of apartheid. The use of brutal force more especially against unarmed and harmless children should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. We will write to the Minister of Police to demand answers in this regard. Many sectors of our society have been calling for the training of police officers to receive intensive training on crowd control. We will demand to know from the Minister if such training did indeed take place and what is the impact thereof. We call on the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to move with speed in finding the police responsible for the loss of life and he must face punitive measures.

We find it disheartening that 27 years since the dawn of democracy, our democratically elected government has failed to make strides in ensuring that the doors of learning are wide open. Government has completely ignored our youth that are yearning for education and have allowed universities to commodify education making it only accessible to those with deep pockets.

The issue of funding of students cannot be ignored any further and the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, must move with speed in resolving it. The onus is on him to ensure that such protest become a thing of the past and they must be stopped before they spread to other institutions. In this regard, we call on him to engage both the President and Treasury to make funds available to fund all deserving students especially those from working class background. 

As NEHAWU, we support the genuine and urgent needs of students including creating more access to higher education. Transformation of the higher education sector will happen and no amount of arrests and tear gas will stop it from taking place. We will not stop nor tire until all deserving students especially from working class background have access to post schooling institutions that prepares them for the labour market and to make means to survive.

We send our deepest condolences to the man who lost his life this morning. We wish his family strength during this dark hour.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 or email: