Johannesburg – Important historical records, like the draft copy of former president Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech, which are housed in most universities, are in danger of being destroyed by violent fringe groups, said Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.
Nzimande, with Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, toured the Wits University library which houses the original court documents from the Rivonia trial.
“We came to this library just to share why it is dangerous to destroy university property... We saw some of the things that are housed here and one of them is the court records of the Rivonia trial including even the draft by President Mandela when he was preparing his famous speech in the Rivonia trial," Nzimande told reporters.
"These are the things that are in danger of being destroyed. We need to protect these records."
Nzimande said the destruction at institutions, such as at North-West University's Mahikeng campus when students burnt down the administration building as well as a science laboratory, should end.
Violent fringe groups
“The mainstream of students and lectures are interested in continuing with the academic programme, but there is a fringe group that wants to express its views through violence," he said.
"We have a duty to ensure as government (that) life and limb and property are protected...” he said.
Some students who had gathered to hear Nzimande address the media, asked him to remove the archived material so they could freely burn down the university library.
Nhleko said they were looking at ways of dealing with the recent violent unrest at universities.
He said police would take decisive action once they had assessed the degree of violence at the campuses.
Earlier this month, protesting students at University of Cape Town burnt a collection of art works from the institution that included at least one, and possibly two, paintings by artist Keresemose Richard Baholo.
In the 1990s, he painted a series of pictures of protests at the University of Cape Town featuring Jameson Hall in the background.