Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma on Friday urged university administrators to work with Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to find solutions to the problem of student funding, and at the same time condemned the destruction of property during fee protests.
“We urge the students to explore peaceful avenues to engage on this issue constructively. The destruction of property is a criminal offence and will be treated as such by the law enforcement authorities,” Zuma warned in a statement.
“We have directed the police to ensure that all such cases reach the courts and that those responsible answer for their actions. This infrastructure must be available for use by generations to come, and students should respect university property as leaders of the future.”
Zuma pledged the support of the Presidency and Cabinet to help Nzimande and university management to deal with the crisis.
“The funding base for higher education students has been expanding considerably over the years, although it has not yet entirely offset the financial challenges for many students,” Zuma said.
“Government cares and will continue to search for ways of making access to higher education easier for students.”
Protests have erupted at various university campuses following an announcement by Nzimande that university councils could increase fees by as much as eight percent, but only for students whose parents could afford the increase.
Nzimande said government would continue to subsidise students who benefit from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and those whose parents earn less than R600 000 a year.
Several university buildings have been destroyed or damaged during the violent protest action.