South Africa student protest
Students from the University of Johannesburg clash with campus security officers, as they attempt to enter inside the university, on October 22, 2015, in Johannesburg, during a protest against university fee hikes. getty images

Thousands of South African students are marching in the capital Pretoria in protest against proposed tuition fee hikes. The students are heading to the Union Buildings where President Jacob Zuma is to meet student leaders and university professors on Friday (23 October) at 11am BST (12pm SAST).

Some protests have resulted in violent clashes between police and students. The demonstrations began earlier in October after the government said it intended to increase fees by between 10% and 12%.

Thousands of students took to the streets calling for free education and arguing that increased fees would prevent poor black youths from accessing education. Hundreds of people have also taken to social media to voice their dissent under the hashtags #FeesMustFall and #NationalShutDown.

Rallies quickly spread to several cities across the nation, including Cape Town, where students clashed with the police as they tried to enter the Parliament building to disrupt a budget speech being delivered by finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. Protesters also tried to breach the headquarters of the ruling party African National Congress (ANC).

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades and arrested some protesters. Some 29 students were subsequently charged with public violence. Protesters are sharing on social media contacts of activist lawyers willing to help students, should they be arrested and charged.

UPDATE 11:15 am

Some students tried to pull the fences surrounding Zuma's office building while others chanted "Zuma must go". One student was quoted by Reuters as saying: "He [Zuma] is not taking us seriously, we've been here for a while."

The ongoing protest in Pretoria was joined by anti-apartheid activist veteran and politician Ahmed Kathrada.

Current protests echo 1976 Soweto uprising

Some protesters said the present scenario echoes protests which occurred in Soweto, Johannesburg, in 1976, when hundreds of unarmed students were shot dead by South African police during a protest against the Afrikaans Medium Decree.

Black high school students took to the streets to protest against this new decree, which introduced Afrikaans as a compulsory language for education.

According to the decree, maths and social studies were to be taught in Afrikaans, with general science and practical subjects in English, while indigenous languages would only be used for religion and music. The exact number of victims is unknown, with estimates ranging from 176 to 700.

Hector Pieterson
When he was shot, Hector Pieterson was picked up by Mbuyisa Makhubo (an 18-year-old schoolboy) who together with Hector's sister, Antoinette (then 17), ran towards the car of photographer Sam Nzima, who took a picture of them. The picture later became the iconic image of the violence of that day. Wikimedia Commons