Students protesting for free education have raised an issue which is critical to the future of the country but those who have resorted to violence and destruction are infringing on others rights‚ Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.
“They have been exercising their right to protest‚ they have been demanding their right to education. They have done much to prove the vibrancy and strength of our democracy‚” Ramaphosa said at the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa’s 20th anniversary symposium in Johannesburg.
There were some within the ranks of these students‚ who he said were a minority‚ who had engaged in violence and destruction of property.
“There are some who have‚ in vigorous pursuit of their own rights‚ infringed upon the rights and dignity of others.”
Students at universities across the country have been protesting in support of free education after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced in September that tertiary institutions must set their own individual increases‚ but not exceed 8%.
He also pledged that the government would subsidise poor‚ working and middle class university and college students‚ by providing the funding to cover the fee adjustments at their institutions in 2017.
This would see all university and college students from families with a household income of up to R600‚000 per annum being supported by the government with subsidy funding to cover the gap between the 2015 fee and the adjusted 2017 fee at their institutions‚ for increments up to 8%
But the announcement sparked a wave of protests‚ some turning violent‚ and has resulted in a number of universities having to suspend lectures.
Ramaphosa said the manner in which society resolved these conflicts‚ how it managed the tensions and how it navigated the line between dissent and disorder‚ would say a lot about the depth and resilience of its democracy.
Democracy thrived when there was a space for dissent‚ he said.
“But the manner in which that dissent is expressed should not undermine the very principles on which the democratic order is built.”
Ramaphosa said he was certain that an acceptable‚ sustainable solution would be found to the issues facing universities.