The South African Federation of Trade Unions has described as insulting recent utterances by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on student protests.
Nzimande held an online meeting with the South African Union of Students and members of Parliament on Tuesday, likening the protests for free higher education to a soap opera.
Students have, in recent weeks, disrupted operations at tertiary institutions calling for the scrapping of historic debt and that free higher education be realised.
SAFTU’s Spokesperson Trevor Shaku calls for Minister Nzimande to resign.
“He must resign because uttering and using such a metaphor and likening students to a soap opera was insulting of the efforts that the students have been making in fighting against financial exclusion, but also fighting for free education. The government that came into power on the card of providing free education and other social services has not brought free education, more than 20 years later. The reason why students are fighting on a yearly basis is because government has not provided or made sure that free education is realisable.”
Discussion on student protests against financial exclusion:
Damages on university institutions during student protests
The Department is still awaiting reports from the University of Zululand, Vaal University of Technology and Walter Sisulu University.
According to the Minister, the following damage and costs have been recorded at universities:
- CPUT recorded four cases of vandalism with repairs worth R2.6 million.
- UJ recorded seven cases of vandalism with repairs amounting to R202 826.
- UKZN recorded damage with repairs amounting to R27.3 million.
- UFH recorded damage with repairs amounting to R468 000.
- UWC recorded two cases of vandalism and theft to the worth of R166 007.
- UniVen recorded three cases of vandalism in 2020 with repairs costing R133 227.
Nzimande says the total cost of repairs, including those that have already been carried out, amount to R32.7 million.
“None of these acts and massive losses incurred could be justified or associated with any legitimate forms of protest and should be condemned unequivocally by all, including our student and union stakeholders. I am also convinced that all progressive stakeholder organisations will agree that criminal and violent acts have no legitimacy in genuine political protests around demands for greater equality in post-school education and training.”
Security and safety measures
Nzimande has called on University Vice-Chancellors to tighten appropriate security measures at higher learning institutions.
He has also called on police to act swiftly against acts of violence and destruction to property.
“The destruction of property is a criminal offence and all those engaging in such acts must be apprehended by law enforcement agencies and face the full might of the law.”