Nzimande calls on universities to take 'any measures necessary' to protect students and property

Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of higher education. (Sydney Seshibedi, Gallo Images, file)
Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of higher education. (Sydney Seshibedi, Gallo Images, file)
Sydney Seshibedi

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has taken a hard line against university protests, saying the damage caused at two institutions is "wholly unacceptable" and "no solution to student concerns".

In a statement on Wednesday, Nzimande called on vice-chancellors to tighten security and "take any measures necessary to prevent any form of destruction and to protect life and limb".

READ | 'No need for shutdown', says Nzimande as student union vows not to back down

He also appealed to protesters to refrain from intimidating fellow students and staff.

"Protesting students must refrain from intimidating the general student population and university employees by making inflammatory and provocative statements that incite violence."

He warned students that the destruction of property was a criminal offence and that those who did so "will be apprehended by law enforcement agencies and face the full might of the law".

'My door is always open'

READ | Student union calls for national university shutdown after talks break down

While Nzimande was still committed to engagement with students, he said damage to property and violence would not be tolerated.

"I wish to reiterate to student leaders that my door is always open for any further engagement and discussion. However, such engagements cannot take place in an environment of violence and destruction."

He added that the government had taken steps to address students' concerns.

These include:

  • the allocation of funding to address the debt of students supported by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)
  • allowing students to register by signing an acknowledgment of debt (AOD)
  • allowing first-time students who did not apply for NSFAS to sign an AOD and, should they be eligible for funding, they will receive the bursary and will be debt-free going forward

Among students' concerns was the issue of proper accreditation processes for private accommodation.

"The department is working to support growth of student accommodation through the implementation of the Student Housing Infrastructure Programme (SHIP).

"A partnership is in place between the Department of Higher Education and Training, National Treasury, the European Union Infrastructure Investment Programme for South Africa (IIPSA), the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and the private sector to support the SHIP," Nzimande said.

He added: "In the absence of sufficient accredited accommodation, NSFAS-qualifying students are able to access non-accredited, single-use accommodation as long as the university has a registration and verification process in place.

"This is an interim arrangement while working toward a more comprehensive accreditation and verification system."

"The minister calls on law enforcement agencies to act swiftly against any acts which result in violence and destruction of public and private property."

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