Blade Nzimande on Thursday called on “everyone to stand up and say no to this anarchy”.
The higher education minister blamed the protests following his fees announcement on Monday on a “small band of students” that were intent on disrupting the academic programme.
Nzimande told Radio 702 that he had “lots of lots of encouragement” from “the section of our people‚ the lower-middle class…the missing middle” who stood to benefit from government’s stance – and whom appreciated the “gesture” that government was there to assist “all those who cannot afford to pay for university education”.
He reiterated fee-free education for all was impossible‚ and that “we need to realise free higher education for the poor‚ not for the rich”.
The minister had said on Monday that it was up to universities to determine their own increases for 2017 – but this should be capped at 8% – while government would absorb the extra cost to students it already supports.
Nzimande conceded that the protests were not “unexpected”‚ saying: “I knew that whatever announcement…I was going to make‚ there was just a small of group of determined students‚ some of whom are actually acting in a very vandalistic manner to actually try and disrupt the academic programme”.
He told Radio 702 that he was “hugely disappointed” by the reaction at universities around the country‚ some of which have decided to suspend activities this week.
“Even if people may be angry‚ nothing justifies endangering the careers and the futures of our young people. Nothing justifies that. We are a democracy. We have ways of protesting‚” Nzimande said.
It is time for “society‚ for everyone to stand up and say no‚ no to anarchy‚ we are not a banana republic‚ no to endangering the careers of our young people”, he said.
He also took a dig at the media for “harping on this thing that I am not taking responsibility for the issue of fees”.
“The issue of fees has never been a central government issue‚ it was always been a decided by university councils”‚ he said.