Johannesburg – There is no telling whether or not another wave of student protests over tertiary fees would engulf the country, religious leader and former Fees Must Fall mediator at the University of the Western Cape, Xola Skosana, said.
Speaking to News24 he said it was difficult to predict how the next chapter in the battle for free education would unfold.
“It really is an unpredictable situation. Government has managed to successfully demobilise students but protest can still erupt, when no one expects it to. It’s like gasoline has been poured across the surface and it will take just one match to set it all alight,” he said.
Skosana said government had quietened students' demand for action through the commission, but this was not enough to address the challenge of high tuition fees.
“Commissions really sustain and perpetuate the status quo. The changes, if any, are surface level. There are also no neutral people involved; government suppresses and represses people and then set[s] up commissions to find solutions; it’s very complex, very muddy,” he said.
Last week Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande postponed the announcement of study fee increments for the 2017 academic year following a meeting with vice chancellors and student leaders. Nzimande said further consultation was needed.
Meanwhile management at the country's universities and students across the country remained anxious, with some students threatening to shut down campuses if fee increases are announced.
Last year President Jacob Zuma announced that there would be no study fee increases for 2016 following nationwide protests by students.
Skosana said he also believed the general sense of unhappiness and frustration felt by South Africans could be what led to wider and more intensified protests.
“Anything can happen here, there is no one formula," he said. "I suspect if protests happen it will be organic, it doesn’t take a clinical political approach, these here are children."