Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe has called on authorities to deal “firmly” with all who damage university property.
Radebe was speaking to reporters during a post cabinet briefing in Parliament on Thursday. The cabinet briefing follows destruction of university infrastructure‚ including a library at the University of KwaZulu Natal.
The post cabinet briefing also comes amidst reports of discussions Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande and universities behind the scenes of the University Fees commission chair by Judge Jonathan Heher.
Radebe said cabinet expressed concern at the resurgence of violent protests at universities‚ adding that cabinet was of the view that the destruction of the library was criminal and detracted from the “legitimate issues” at universities.
“The resources destroyed‚ including a library‚ as witnessed at the University of KwaZulu Natal‚ books and infrastructure is unacceptable and destroys the knowledge capital accumulated over time. These are acts of criminality to which the law enforcement agencies must respond firmly‚” he said.
When asked about the latest developments in discussions for the fees in the 2017 academic year‚ in which universities are reported to be pushing for a 7% increase while Nzimande is prepared to settle for 6%‚ Radebe asked that the commission be given time before a decision is made.
“…We ask that these matters be allowed to continue until Ministers (Pravin) Gordhan and Nzimande make an announcement‚” he said.
He added that there were “legitimate” students who wished to continue with their academic year uninterrupted that did not want the violence and destruction of property on campuses to continue.
“Destruction is a criminal activity. I do not believe genuine students would damage property. Those books are irreplaceable. Grievances of students are being undermined by criminal elements that look to destroy property‚” he said.
Radebe said cabinet remained committed to “a phased realisation of free education for the poor within fiscal affordability”.