Pretoria – Higher Education, Science, and Innovation Minister Dr. Blade Nzimande on Friday said he “strongly condemns” incidents of violent disruptions, arson, vandalism, and students’ intimidation at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
The violent disturbances were a result of student protests, which began on Monday, culminating in a fire at a cleaning supply room at the Bellville campus.
At the Wellington campus a recreational area – the SS Hall CPUT – was torched.
The protests were prompted by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) stance that students studying for less than 60-course credits were no longer eligible for accommodation, living, and transport allowance.
The ruling affects more than 800 CPUT students.
Overnight Wednesday, more buildings and at least two cars were also set alight during the protests.
At UWC chaotic scene played out on Monday with protesting students clashing with the police.
There were unverified reports that a student snatched a policeman’s gun in the ensuing scuffles.
Commenting on the violent protests, Minister Nzimande on Friday said: “Government cannot and will not tolerate the threat to lives and destruction of property and requests the university management to tighten up security in all the university campuses in order to ensure the safety of all students and workers”.
He said arson, vandalism, and intimidation will never justify or cannot be associated with any legitimate forms of protest and should be condemned unequivocally by all, including by student leaders themselves.
Minister Nzimande appealed to both universities to work with law enforcement agencies to ensure that perpetrators of these criminal acts are exposed and necessary disciplinary actions are taken against all students who are involved in this crime.
To resolve genuine student concerns, the Department of Higher Education and Training together with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) have been consulting both the university’s stakeholders including the Student Representative Council to resolve the impasse.
Minister Nzimande appealed for calm and for all the stakeholders to continue to participate in the consultation processes.
Dr. Nzimande said he will be awaiting a full report from both the consultation processes and a way forward.
Meanwhile, on Thursday – owing to the ongoing violent protests – the Cape Peninsula University of Technology shut down all its campuses and told students to vacate residences.