The Deputy Minister called on students to exercise patience and allow the Commission of Inquiry, which was established by President Jacob Zuma to look into alternative funding models for higher education, to do its work without disruptions.
He said this when the National Assembly held a debate under the theme: “Student fees crisis in South Africa” on Thursday.
“Fellow students, we continue to witness with dismay the recurring vandalism of our institutions. As government, we condemn the destruction of educational property and we call on all our communities to do the same.
“We have to isolate and expose vandals from genuine students who need to build their future in our universities,” he said.
The university’s senate building and six vehicles outside the Westville campus were set alight, allegedly by protesting students, with a university spokesperson confirming that several students were arrested following the incident.
During the debate on Thursday, the Deputy Minister condemned the torching of the buildings, which also left the university’s Law Library in ashes.
“Serious action must be taken against the perpetrators of sordid criminality. We equally condemn police brutality against students and all our law enforcement agencies but to instead arrest all those who are found to be responsible,” he said.
The Deputy Minister said all stakeholders participating in the Commission of Enquiry should exercise patience.
This comes after reports that some hearings held by the commission were disrupted by students when emotions ran high.
“In this connection, I wish to appeal to all our stakeholders, and particularly the students, to allow the commission of enquiry to do its work without disruptions so that the views of members of society on possible options can be well captured.
“As you may be aware, the commission is not only [seized by] investigating modalities for free undergraduate education, but it is also looking at the pertinent issue of funding for the entire post-school system,” he said
While short-term solutions will provide a much-needed cushion for students who cannot afford university fees, discussions should also explore lasting solutions to ensure accessibility of the higher education system.
“We are navigating through this precarious path with all our stakeholders, the communities and indeed the masses of our people who stand to benefit from improved access to higher quality education and training.
“We therefore ask our people to exercise maximum patience as we find lasting and workable solutions to the current challenges.”