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South African students stage anti-police protests after demo killing

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Student members of the African National Congress (ANC) chant political slogans while protesting outside ANC headquarters in Johannesburg, on March 11, 2021. – A passerby was shot dead on March 10, 2021 after South African police moved to disperse students protesting against refusal by a top Johannesburg-based university to register those in arrears with tuition fees. Clashes erupted when police used rubber bullets to break up a group of students who were blocking roads with rubble and disrupting traffic in downtown Johannesburg around the Wits campus precinct. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

Hundreds of people demonstrated peacefully on Thursday in front of a police station in downtown Johannesburg following the death of an unarmed passerby during a South African student protest against fees a day earlier.

A 35-year-old government worker was caught in the crossfire while walking out of a doctor’s office and shot dead on a street where university students were protesting over fees debt.

The incident sparked anger over police brutality.

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Around 300 people, including students, ruling and opposition party activists, as well labour union members marched to the police office where nearly two dozen armed officers guarded the main entrance.

“We are here to condemn them in the strongest force possible,” said Aubrey Moloto, 37, who was marching in solidarity with the students.

“Enough is enough”.

From the police station, the procession marched to the headquarters of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), where they were addressed by the party’s secretary-general Ace Magashule.

Earlier, Police Minister Bheki Cele expressed his condolences to the family of the dead man and said the killing was indefensible.

“I can’t explain it. Somebody… just went crazy,” said the police official about the shooting.

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It is not clear yet whether police used live ammunition during Wednesday’s protests, but a police watchdog has launched a probe into the killing.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse students who were protesting outside the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), one of the country’s top-tier institutions.

The students had blocked roads with rubble and burning plastic trash bins, disrupting traffic, a street away from campus.

The students demanded that the university allow those in arrears on their fees — some by up to $9,800 — be allowed to register for the 2021 academic year.

Wits vice-chancellor, Zeblon Vilakazi told reporters earlier that the protests “could have been resolved better”.

In a post-cabinet briefing, government said it “urges the police to exercise restraint whilst ensuring public order during protests and never to use live ammunition”.

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