Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has accused students who damaged university property of being guilty of sheer thuggery.
Speaking at the Moses Mabhida Memorial lecture organised by the Congress of SA Trade Unions in Pietermaritzburg on Friday, Nzimande urged parents to reign in their children.
“I attended the Pietermaritzburg campus and as a former student of the institution it pains me when I see acts of vandalism carried out in the name of students’ protest when what we are seeing is sheer thuggery,” said Nzimande.
He said that while he welcomed protests, the acts of vandalism raised questions over what should be a noble cause.
Earlier in the day it had been rumoured that the University of KwaZulu-Natal students from the Pietermaritzburg campus would disrupt Nzimande’s presentation. However, the small group that did arrive for the lecture left before the end of the session without any disruption.
Nzimande said the law needed to be applied against those responsible for the destruction of property and acts of vandalism.
On Friday 11 students made a brief appearance in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court after they were arrested during the unrest on campus on Thursday.
“It has been brought to my attention that those arrested were given another seven days in police custody; maybe that will knock some sense into them. It does not make sense to go on strike when the exams are on the doorstep,” said Nzimande, to the applause of the audience.
He called on other students to stand up against individuals who were not interested in their future. He also decried the silence of parents, likening this to an abdication of responsibility, and called on them to exercise control over their children. “Where are the workers and where are the parents in all of this when their children are behaving like this?” asked Nzimande.
By destroying property such as residences and libraries, the perpetrators were destroying the future of the next generation.
He said his announcement earlier this week for the provision of funding to poor students and those from middle income earning families was the most far reaching by any minister.
“What we cannot do is provide free education because there are families that can afford to pay. You cannot equate a child of a domestic worker to that of a filthy rich family,” said Nzimande.
He urged that the presidential commission on the funding of higher education to be given a chance to conclude its work and called on the University of KwaZulu-Natal management and the student leadership to hold discussions so that the situation could return to normal at the institution.
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