One of the thousands of students wears a chain around his head at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where students gathered on Friday to demonstrate against fee increases at universities.  Picture: EPS
One of thousands of students wears a chain around his head at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where students gathered on Friday to demonstrate against fee increases at universities. Picture: EPS

THERE will be no university fee increases for 2016, President Jacob Zuma announced on Friday.

Students have succeeded in forcing the government and universities to agree to a moratorium on fee increases for the next year after shutting down universities and protesting for more than a week.

A wide-ranging process will follow thereafter which would deal with the various issues raised by students including transformation issues and the living conditions in university residences.

Mr Zuma was speaking after a meeting between the government, student leaders and university vice-chancellors and heads of council.

"Government understands the difficulties faced by students from poor households and all those affected," Mr Zuma said.

The exam period would also be extended — which was agreed to by university leaders — to allow students to catch up and prepare. Mr Zuma left it to student leaders to deliver the message to students that their protests had not been in vain and that they had succeeded in causing fees to "fall". The protest was fought partly on social media using the Twitter hashtag "feesmustfall".

Universities SA chairman and University of the Witwaterstrand Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib on Friday said an agreement between student leaders, the government and universities to resolve the impasse over fees would not compromise the financial viability of the institutions.

He spoke to BDlive following a meeting convened by Mr Zuma between parties aimed at ending the student protests, which had turned violent earlier this week and on Friday.

Students have shut down campuses across the country in a bid to force universities to place a moratorium on fee increases. The government had on Tuesday announced a 6% cap on fees but students were not having it — they demanded a moratorium on increases or said they would continue protesting.

"It would not compromise the books of the university, it would not (push) the institutions into financial problems. I think the government responded appropriately in this regard," he said.

University heads hoped that the agreement would end the protests and allow academic programmes to get back on track.

"It should make the students happy; it goes some way in being responsive to their demands," Mr Habib said.

Mr Zuma did not comment on the violent scenes that played out on the lawns of the Union Buildings while he was discussing the impasse inside.