Higher education convention cancelled after chaos

Johannesburg – The Higher Education National Convention in Midrand was cancelled after chaos erupted on Saturday when students dressed in EFF regalia refused to give Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande an opportunity to speak. 

One student in a red EFF T-shirt told a convener:  "What is he [Nzimande] going to say? He's not going to say anything we want to hear."

Programme directors ordered everyone out of the plenary tent as chairs and water bottles were thrown around and students started getting violent with each other.        

Nzimande is believed to have left the venue after his security team escorted him out of the tent. 

Earlier the programme was suspended when conveners consulted student leaders on the best way forward. 

AfriForum left the convention when students asked them to leave. 

“The white people should leave,” some students shouted. 

The EFF student command said they disrupted the convention because of their own interests. 

“We collapsed the plenary for our own interests, because many people here aren’t here for our interests. We are participating and will continue to participate, but only on our terms,” Sharon Letlape from the EFF student command told News24.

The Young Communist League said the future of South African young people depends on the outcome of the convention. 

“We are here to cement the call for free education for the poor. Because we believe education is not neutral from class conditions. Those who own the means of production must pay for higher education,” a representative said from the podium. 

While students where protesting, former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke pleaded with them to not disrupt the convention. 

“We have invested an incredible amount of time in carefully negotiating with all stakeholders, in crafting a programme that is fully representative of all stakeholders, with the view to find common solutions to the current education crisis,” he said.

"The convention can no longer be meaningfully had. We regret that the deterioration of the situation is of such a level that we cannot continue. The minister who was our guest and who we wanted to hear had to leave in circumstances that were unacceptable.

"There are formations here who would've very much wanted to continue. I am personally deeply saddened, so too my co-convenors. We have no stake instead of advancing the interests of our youth, who are the future of our country. We are going to regroup and dialogue continues."

He said people could not shout each other down.  

"We have a long difficult struggle ahead of us... We must struggle within the parameters of discipline and have a vision. Whether we like it or not, we have a government and we have to engage them."

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