DA demands safety for students and staff so that universities can re-open this week

African News Agency (ANA)

DA demands safety for students and staff so that universities can re-open this week
Wits #FeesMustFall students are defying police instructions and have broken the "No go" tape. Stun grenades and tear gas fired by police to move the students back. Photo: CICA

The Democratic Alliance on Sunday urged university management, the higher education and training department, and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to work together to ensure that students and staff are safe so that campuses across the country can re-open this week.

This follows reports that many campuses will remain closed, including the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of Cape Town (UCT).

“According to a note sent out from Wits, their decision to remain closed this week is based on real threats to the safety of students and staff. Indeed, evidence of petrol bombs have been discovered on campus, revealing a condemnable intent by some students to destroy university property,” DA spokeswoman Belinda Bozzoli said.

“According [to] this letter, threats like these emanate from a small group of individuals who have deliberately sought to shut down campuses, using intimidation and violence.

“This situation cannot be allowed to continue. The overwhelming majority of students who want to learn and prepare for exams are having their own rights undermined by the conduct of a few individuals who have no care for the law and the rights of others,” she said.

Those few students who continued to break the law by intimidation, threatening the lives of others, and destroying public and private property should be brought to book through the criminal justice system. Their conduct constituted a criminal offence and they should be arrested and face prosecution.

“Keeping our universities open and ensuring the safety of students and staff on campuses does not detract from the legitimate fight for more funding in higher education. The DA shares the anger and frustration which so many young people are feeling around South Africa today, almost all of whom are not involved in the campus shut-downs. With rising unemployment, less opportunities, and completely inadequate funding, many young people are losing hope. This needs to be urgently addressed in the short and long-term,” Bozzoli said.

Both the DA and the party’s student organisation DASO had made it clear that no student should be denied an education just because they were poor. Higher education should be made a top priority by government to ensure that this happened. It remained the most powerful weapon to address poverty and inequality and should be budgeted for as such. The DA would continue with this fight, using every mechanism available to it.

“Closing down campuses, however, is not the solution and will only add to the crisis our country faces today. It is time to re-open our campuses so that the fight for free higher education for the poor does not hurt the very people we need to help,” Bozzoli said.

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SOURCEAfrican News Agency (ANA)