ANC charges the support lent by the bishops of Pretoria and Johannesburg to the student protestors fomented violence
Leaders of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party have denounced two Anglican bishops, accusing them of fomenting student unrest. University classes have been disrupted by student activists for the two past two weeks in South Africa in protests over government plans to raise tuition fees. The #FeesMustFall campaign has seen students marches and rallies in several universities while protesters invaded the library of the University of Witwatersrand, demanding other students join their protests. On 11 Oct 2016 the Rt. Rev. Jo Seoka, (pictured) Bishop of Pretoria, and the Rt. Rev. Steve Moreo, Bishop of Johannesburg joined other ministers at the university, urging a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Bishop Seoka told South Africa’s The Times last week the church stood “against any form of violence‚” and urged university administrators to talk to the students rather than confront them with security guards and armed police. “The Vice Chancellor needs to come and engage the students. That’s all they are asking for‚ whether he comes under heavy police presence. They are willing to listen to him,” he said. However, ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte claimed the bishop’s actions lent credibility to the violent protests. “We ask students to distance themselves, not just verbally but physically, from any groups or organisations perpetuating violence, including unfortunately the clergy that have gone to campuses and spoken about this government knowing only one language,” she said on 19 Oct 2016. In a statement released on 11 Oct 2016 Bishop Moreo said he estimated that no more than 500 students were involved in the protests that had shut down the university, and had “no doubt” there was an “active rogue element at work amongst the students.” He observed: “Even as I stood on the Wits campus this morning‚ trying to persuade the small group of students to negotiate‚ they were breaking precast walls into stones to hurl at the security forces. Nothing will be achieved that way.” It was apparent “We are now clearly dealing with something more complex than simple demonstrations aimed at achieving the objective of #FeesMustFall,” he said. “People are angry. The students are angry. But they seem to have lost sight of the need for peaceful means to achieve what most people in our country believe to be laudatory aims – that of education for all.” The ANC led government of President Jacob Zuma has faced criticism for the handling of the student protests. “There is every reason for South Africans to be concerned at the latest developments‚ just as I am when I see buses being burnt‚ and shops being looted by students and their fellow travellers in the streets of my Diocese‚” he said. “But where is the country’s president when all this is happening? He is simply absent while people are suffering,” Bishop Moreo said.