A small group of Wits students hurled insults at the minister Blade Nzimande this morning when he refused to address them.
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande and Police Minister Nathi Nhleko briefly addressed the media outside William Cullen Library at the University of the Witwatersrand this morning.
The briefing followed a meeting between the two ministers on how to tackle the current wave of student protests.
The two also staged a walkabout at the library prior to the briefing. They told journalists that they wanted to highlight the importance of historical documents housed by universities. These documents may be lost forever should protesting students continue to burn buildings.
When the briefing was opened to questions, the group was informed that only media would be permitted to ask questions. This did not go well with a small group of students, who had stood silently until then.
Angered that they would not get a chance to address the minister some shouted slurs such as: “Voetsek Blade”, “you are out of touch Blade” and “why have you come to our campus but refuse to speak to us”. Moments later the small group briefly started chanting: “Blade must fall.”
The two ministers were tight-lipped on what exactly was agreed upon during their meeting today but again urged students for peaceful engagement.
“Our first prize would be for peaceful dialogue on campuses; we don’t want to have to deploy security and police,” said Nzimande.
“For the most part, lecturers, students and other stakeholders want peace and normality on campuses. It is just a small fringe group that insists on disruption ... We are saying that it is possible to be in class and fight issues of transformation at the same time.”
Speaking very briefly Nhleko reiterated what was said by Nzimande, and called for calm. He also said his intelligence department would be meeting on a way forward in terms of how to tackle the situation on campuses.
Last night Nzimande met with various stakeholders at the University of Pretoria, where there have been widespread protests over the use of Afrikaans. The Hatfield campus of the university saw the deployment of public order policing there today to ensure that the academic programme could continue.
Meanwhile, Nzimande is expected to post the answers to his #AskBlade campaign – in which Twitter users were invited to “#AskBlade questions you have about #HigherEducation” – today.