The SA government on Wednesday said it had noted “with concern media reports on the resurgence of violent protests in some institutions of higher learning”.
A statement issued by government communications (GCIS) said: “Students are advised not to participate in activities that may place them in conflict with the law as they protest against fee increase at universities.”
The statement was issued amid violent protests at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College, Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses.
On Monday night, six vehicles were torched at the Westville campus. On Tuesday evening, the law library in the university’s 85-year-old Howard College building was set alight.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thulane Zwane said 23 students were arrested on Tuesday, at both campuses for public violence and violating the court order that the university had obtained earlier this week, prohibiting protests.
One person was arrested at Howard College and 22 were arrested at the Westville campus.
Zwane said police estimated that about 250 students participated in the protests at Howard College, while about 50 participated in the protests at the Westville campus.
The students were protesting against possible fees hikes and inadequate accommodation. They were also complaints about poor security at campuses.
On Tuesday afternoon, the university announced the suspension of its academic programme.
“University management today suspended the academic programme until further notice. The decision was taken to provide all parties with the space to engage and try and resolve the current impasse. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Every effort is being made to ensure the continuation of the academic programme.”
Reacting to the protests on Wednesday the GCIS said: “As government we would like to assure South Africans that the matter of student fees is receiving our full attention. We are working together with all parties concerned to find a lasting solution.”
The GCIS said the destruction of property and violence during this process cannot be tolerated.
“Government calls on students to allow the ongoing consultation to be concluded peacefully,” said the GCIS in the statement issued by Donald Liphoko, the GCIS acting Director-General.
“We call on student leadership to join the call for the protection of valuable university infrastructure which is part of the common national heritage of all South Africans,” said Liphoko.
“Government understands the difficult circumstances faced by many students in the country and is doing everything in its power to resolve the situation.”
The GCIS said the 2016 academic year was drawing to a close and students were encouraged to focus on preparations for their final examinations.
“South Africa desperately needs the skills of young people who will be able to one day take their place in the South African economy and contribute towards a great destiny,” said Liphoko.
“Education is our future. The department of higher education and training will soon make an announcement on the matter of student fees.”
– African News Agency (ANA)