President Cyril Ramaphosa and Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande have condemned the violent protests taking place on some university campuses.
Speaking to journalists in an engagement with the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and Parliamentary Press Gallery Association (PGA) in Tuynhuys on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said the government had “moved mountains and seas” to ensure free higher education and it would not be letting up as it was important.
The president added that the government needed to focus on the so-called missing middle – those students whose parents earn more than the threshold for free higher education, but not enough to pay tertiary fees – because that was where the problem was.
Ramaphosa said, there were challenges of “young people [who] don’t find themselves readmitted” for a variety of reasons at the start of every academic year.
However, he condemned the destruction of university property.
“It should never really get to that.”
While Ramaphosa was engaging with journalists, Nzimande delivered a statement in the National Assembly.
“The beginning of this academic year has also been marred by some violent student protests at a number of our institutions. In all these cases, my department has been working with the institutions to address the specific problems and challenges,” he said.
“We wish to particularly condemn violence and destruction that has actually accompanied some of these protests and to say no matter how legitimate a complaint is, we must protect property and life in our institutions.”
Nzimande said the institutions of higher learning were “places of teaching, learning and positive socialisation and should, therefore, be safe spaces for all students and staff”.
He added the department had finalised a policy on gender-based violence for the post-school sector that will be tabled before the Cabinet for final approval shortly.