Imraan Christian’s Firsthand Account of the #FeesMustFall Protest at UCT

This past week student protests have dominated headlines and social media feeds. What began as a demonstration against an increase in university fees at Wits in Joburg incited similar movements at Rhodes University in Grahamstown and the University of Cape Town where lectures were suspended for the day.

Photographer Imraan Christian was at the scene documenting the transition from a peaceful demonstration to a violent police standoff. He shares the ordeal with us: 

Yesterday, students at the University of Cape Town, led by a majority of young black radical women, followed the example set by their peers at Rhodes and Wits and shut down the entrances to their university to protest outsourcing and tuition increases.

The peaceful protest became a scene of horrific brutality, however, when police were given a court interdict allowing them to forcefully remove students from the premises. Students were attacked with stun grenades, threatened with loaded weapons and tear gassed. In one instance, the police Hippo [armoured personnel carrier], overloaded with 25+ UCT students, attempted to leave the premises, and as the students protested, the police set off 4-5 stun grenades and tear gas.

Forty people were detained and many injured last night, but the effect was that thousands of students were mobilized to occupy the streets of Rondebosch outside the police station in protest. Once everyone was released we sang protest songs until early in the morning and prepared for the next occupation which is happening today.

What I’ve taken from last night is that the police are pawns following orders from their masters and that they too are oppressed. To those masters who pull strings from their ivory towers—we see you—and we have not forgotten Marikana- we have not forgotten Sharpeville.

Despite all of this orchestrated violence, no amount of tear gas or stun grenades could stop the fire of connectedness I know many of us felt last night standing next to brothers and sisters of all races against what is clearly a manifestation of a deep-rooted evil. An evil that merely swapped masks after apartheid.

“Sons and daughters of the fire” is kind of what we all felt last night, being there together, occupying the streets. It was like a force of old liberated us to the point where we could feel each other’s strength. The unity will be something I will remember forever.

The shut-down of UCT will continue today, with a mass meeting happening at 1pm, so if you consider yourself an ally, it’s time to walk the walk.

I won’t speak more about yesterday, as words fail to capture the electricity of a deep knowing that these moments and the moments to come will define history. History that we are creating together.

Salute Ma Se Kinders.

Words and photos by Imraan Christian. See more of his photography and documentary work at

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  1. Wow! Great photo journalism.

  2. On the other hand I find this post very curious. I know designers who have submitted high profile designs and documentary photos and yet they have never been showcased this quickly. Marcio Quintal has designed posters, logos, websites and editorials, as well as having documented the Nelson Mandela Memorial at FNB Stadium but yet he has never featured here on The timing of this post reeks of cronyism! is not a breaking news website so why is this content being fast tracked for showcasing. Clearly the death of our beloved #Madiba was not as important as the #FeesMustFall movement, and for some reason South African creativity seems to revolve around the Mother City. Please remember #WeAreCreative in Joburg too.

  3. 10and5 is a media company that responds to relevant, time sensitive news stories as well as produce longer form “ever green” content. We try find a creative/interesting angle that you hopefully won’t find in the rest of the mainstream news. This story is relevant now, which is why we’d publish something like this.
    You can find our take on the death of Madiba here:
    If you’d like to see our coverage of Joburg, please delve into our archives.

    Thanks for reading 10and5 and having enough interest to leave a comment!

  4. I agree the story is relevant now, but this movement did not start at UCT it started at WITS and eventually spread to the likes of Rhodes, UCT and Stellies. If you are publishing the story due to its relevance then you should have visually documented where it originated in Jozi instead of jumping straight to the Cape Town visuals. The fact that you showcase the UCT protests over that of the activities in Joburg is what concerns me. This is a nationwide saga and the title together with the visuals are misleading. They give the impression that more is being done in Cape Town than anywhere else. Responsible journalism should be balanced and fair, should tell the full story, and give credit where credit is due.

  5. I see lots of creatively inspired Madiba images but what I don’t see is any photojournalism covering his Memorial. It is all well and all to sit behind a computer screen and to be inspired by Madiba but where are the visuals which display a country united in mourning the death of our greatest leader. If you are interested in seeing what it was like at the Mandela Memorial please feel free to visit – -for a peak at some of the photos from that day.

  6. Thanks for your comments, we are closing this comment thread.

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    Further reading on our coverage of Mandela is here: