South Africa 19.10.2015 04:03 pm

Varsity fee hikes exclude blacks – ANC spokesperson

Wits University students protest at West Campus in Johannesburg, 14 October 2015, for the  increasing of the upfront  fee payments . Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Wits University students protest at West Campus in Johannesburg, 14 October 2015, for the increasing of the upfront fee payments . Picture: Nigel Sibanda

The African National Congress (ANC) has voiced its support for students protesting against proposed fee hikes at South African Universities and called for intervention from the department of higher education.

This comes in the wake of the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University suspending all academic activities amid student protests on Monday.

“We commend the students for protesting in defense of their right to learn … education is not a privilege – it is a right and [these students] are defending that right for themselves and generations to come,” ANC Spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told The Citizen.

He added the hikes were a form of exclusion of poor black students from higher education by the universities in question.

“These unreasonable fee hikes are excluding the majority of black students from open access to education,” he said, adding the proposed fee hikes would reverse the process of transformation at tertiary institutions in the country.

“In the past, young black people could not afford to go to university. Implementing the proposed fee hikes will ensure [the Universities] become lily-white,” he said.

Kodwa added Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande should urgently a meeting with chancellors to figure out ways to regulate the fees.

Meanwhile, DA MP and Shadow Minister of Higher Education and Training, Professor Belinda Bozzoli blamed Nzimande for the current protests.

“They have neglected our Higher Education system for 20 years. Our minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, appears to be absent whenever the crunch comes, and had done little that is preemptive to address the situations even though he has been warned about it for years.

“We are disgusted at the gross neglect he and his colleagues have displayed and not at all surprised that the system is undergoing such a severe crisis,” Bozzoli said.

In an ‘urgent media briefing’ called this afternoon by Minister Nzimande, he sought to outline both his and his department’s stance on the current University fees debacle.

“I do not want to appear as not caring about what the students are going through … but I do not think this is a crisis. A crisis implies that there are no mechanisms to deal with this, but there are,” the minister retorted when asked if he agreed with students who were calling this fiasco a “crisis”.

“I am meating with stakeholders tomorrow to deal with this. Yes it’s a challenge, but I would not call it a crisis because we have ways and means of discussing the matter,” Nzimande continued.

“At the moment I do not have powers to determine fees – they are determined by University councils … this does not mean that we cannot explore ways of giving the department some powers to have regulations or a regulatory framework on the issue of fees. That is what we will explore.”

Read More:

> Wits staff members in support of free education
Student protests not a national crisis – Nzimande
> Tuition fees a national crisis – Mcebo Dlamini

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