Johannesburg - Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on Monday condemned the violent protests at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).
“I particularly condemn the recent violence and destruction of property that has taken place at the TUT, which has continued into the weekend,” he said in a statement.
“Property has been destroyed and vandalised, and the lives of individuals have been put at risk.”
Nzimande called on TUT's management and police to act against anyone who contributed to the violence and destruction.
“It is also clear now that there is a criminal element in operation here, whose intention is not to advance the interests of students and the institution.”
The university closed all its campuses on Saturday, following a spate of violent protests during which 18 cars were burnt.
Police spokeswoman Lt-Col Khensani Magoai said cases of malicious damage to property and public violence were opened, following the torching of the vehicles.
No injuries were reported and no one had been arrested. She said police were monitoring the situation.
The institution said it would continue talks with student leaders on Monday.
Nzimande said his department was willing to help, and TUT's management and student representative council should look to the department for advice.
Students were protesting over a lack of funds in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
The minister acknowledged there were problems with financial aid across the higher education system, and said the TUT did have a substantial shortfall.
However, there was no justification for the violence by students.
“It should be noted that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme is disbursing just over R9 billion in loans and bursaries in the 2014 academic year,” Nzimande said.
“This is a substantial amount, with TUT being the largest university recipient of NSFAS funding, receiving an allocation of over R453 million for the 2014 academic year.”
He said the institution needed to manage its resources more effectively to ensure students who needed financial aid were helped.