Quinton Mtyala and Carlo Petersen
AHEAD of a meeting today between university vice-chancellors, student representatives and President Jacob Zuma, highly placed sources within the Presidency and the SACP have indicated that a moratorium on student fee increases for next year would be the likely outcome.
This comes barely three days after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, along with university principals and some student representatives, signed a deal which would have seen increases capped at 6 percent.
A source close to Nzimande said: “A moratorium on increases, that’s the general view. Somewhere, somehow, the shortfall in the budgets of universities will have to be found.
“There’s nowhere that this thing (protests) can be allowed to go on, otherwise it becomes a crisis.”
Yesterday, university vice-chancellors from UCT, CPUT and Stellenbosch University threw their weight behind the #FeesMustFall campaign.
This comes after a week of mayhem as thousands of university students, staff and workers shut down campuses throughout the country.
UCT vice-chancellor Max Price said university management supported the students’ plight and was prepared to ensure a zero percent increase to tuition fees for “students in need”.
“For fees to go to zero, we would have to get more funding from government and we would be open to meet with students to discuss making those hard choices about where we will have to make cuts and whether those cuts will be worth it or if there are other options to explore,” Price said.
He added that a zero percent increase would also result in a significant decline in quality of education and financial aid which most universities give.
“We’ve recognised that students from middle-class households, where they earn R5 000 to R6 000, even they struggle to pay university fees.”
However, Price later appealed to the state to act with restraint after UCT convocation president Professor Barney Pityana labelled the day “Black Wednesday” and lambasted police and the State for using “excessive force”.
“The arrest of some of the protesters and the reports that they are to be charged with treason, among other charges, is indicative of a state that has lost control. It is shameful,” Pityana said.
CPUT vice-chancellor Prins Nevhutalu echoed Price’s stance on backing the protests, but slammed students who acted unlawfully.
“I believe it is a just cause which unfortunately got hijacked by hooligans.’’
Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said management was still busy in a “tense meeting” yesterday to discuss its stance on the #FeesMustFall campaign.
UWC vice-chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius announced that the university would shut down for the rest of the week in solidarity with students calling for free education.
“This decision has not been taken lightly as we recognise that this is a crucial time in the academic calendar.”
SA Students Congress national executive member Luntu Sokutu said they would insist on a no-fees increase.