Five hundred students from colleges in and around Durban, Kwa Zulu Natal marched in support of the demand of free education on Thursday, 9 September.
This demonstration was organised by the Socialist Student Movement, a fighting campaigning organisations set up by the Democratic Socialist Movement, the Committee for a Workers International, South African affiliate.
The SSM branch at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal came up with the idea of a day of protest for free education. This was decided during the last semester when we led a march to the university Vice Chancellor’s office to protest at the non-payment of grants to students. Nearly 500 students from one campus of the university alone who qualified for payments from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) were told they would not be paid because "money had run out". As a result many students are excluded from university for being unable to pay course and accommodation costs. The SSM took up this issue and organised a march which was a success in that we were able to put pressure and open a debate around this issue.
A number of different organisations attended the demonstration such as the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA), Black Consciousness Youth of Azania (BCYA) and social movements’ representatives such as eThekwini Social Forum (ESF) and Durban Social Forum (DSF). Also University lecturers and the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) were represented in the march.
The speeches were characterized by a lot of socialist politics, the students were shouting that they needed free education and that capitalism was failing the country, therefore they wanted socialism now. A memorandum was handed to the Provincial Minister of Education Ina Cronje (ANC), who tried to shift the blame for the situation to the national government by saying that she was not responsible for university education since this was a national issue. She also blamed school principals for financial exclusions. She claimed that the Provincial government was busy upgrading the dilapidated infrastructure in schools. The angry crowd shouted at her and called her a liar since her party, the ANC is the one implementing neo-liberal policies that are detrimental to students in the country.
All people who attended this march were very enthusiastic and felt that it was the beginning of greater struggles for free education. They also made it clear that this it was just the beginning and more is still yet to come.