Premier lambasts ‘militant fringe’ in varsity protests

Helen Zille. Picture: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Denzil Maregele
Helen Zille
Picture: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Denzil Maregele

Western Cape premier Helen Zille has slammed a “militant minority” she says are active in university protests and called for a police presence on campuses to protect law-abiding students.

Although fees had sparked the protests, there were now other agendas at play, Zille told The Times as the University of Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Western Cape suspended their classes .

“The current militant minority keeps on shifting the goalposts so the minute, for example, the universities solve X, they set the goalposts to Y and they keep on moving them because this is actually about far, far more than fees,” said Zille.

“There are people talking about decolonising the university. What do they actually mean? “How would you apply that to astrophysics, to medicine, to engineering and all of those sort of other things?”

Zille said the debate on fee-free university education was supposed to happen within the rule of law.

“We cannot have people breaking the law, throwing petrol bombs, burning down buildings and intimidating other people. [Police] should be in all those campuses, controlling the situation so that the law-abiding majority can continue the conversation while studying.”

It had taken centuries to build the country’s universities and it would take only a year to destroy them, she said.

“What people don’t realise is that if public universities are destroyed in South Africa, they are not going to be rebuilt.”

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