Photos from the frontline of South Africa's student protests

Photographer Imraan Christian documents the day a student protest over unaffordable university fees turned violent.

From the Series

For years, students have protested the ever-rising costs of higher education and the ineffectiveness of government-funded financial aid schemes. While South Africa battles to overcome the inequality inherited from the Apartheid regime, many see education as their only way out of poverty. But, faced with unaffordable fees and little outside help, students have been left with nowhere to turn. This frustration resulted in the national shutdown of 16 universities across the country on the 21 October – an unprecedented level of civil disobedience. The day will also be remembered as the day the “People’s Parliament” descended into chaos, as unarmed students fled a police force who were ordered to remove them from the grounds of the National Assembly in Cape Town with stun grenades, tazers, and brute force.

Thousands of students from the University of Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and the University of the Western Cape descended on Parliament before the Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande was expected to address MPs. This comes after the students rejected a six per cent cap on university fee increases, calling instead for free education.

As tensions mounted, some students pushed through the gates of Parliament, calling for Nzimande to address their concerns. In response, riot police and Parliament’s protection unit descended on the students with stun grenades and tazers. The coverage of the subsequent chaos shocked the nation and at the forefront of the mayhem, photojournalist Imraan Christian captured the events in a photo series, which he says, begs the question: “Who protects us from you?”

Minister Nzimande watches as the students protest.