This follows a briefing Nzimande held in January saying that South Africa could no longer afford any more damage to its universities. Appealing to protesting students, Nzimande urged a halt to the addition of unnecessary expenses so that funds could be better spent on building the education system. At the time, Nzimande revealed the government’s plan to shuffle its budget in order to cover the estimated R150 million in damages done to universities’ infrastructures. Since then this amount has more than doubled, with North-West University suffering R151 million in damages to its property alone. The University of KwaZulu-Natal estimated its damage to property at R82 million, with the University of the Western Cape’s damage amounting to roughly R46 million.
On 13 April Nzimande was quoted by News24 as saying, “It cannot be acceptable that student protests are resulting in violence and destruction of the universities’ property that belongs to the public of South Africa and future generations to come.” Nzimande added that the department would work with law enforcement agencies to strengthen security at university campuses to prevent any further damage.
The extent of damages at Unisa, Central University of Technology, Durban University of Technology and the University of Fort Hare are yet to be quantified.
According to the director of UP’s Department of Security Services, Colin Fouché, relationship management during the recent protests was a key contributor in avoiding any damage at UP. Fouché thanked those involved for their “high morale and well-disciplined behaviour” and for the cooperation and fruitful engagement on student matters from all parties involved.
UP’s Registrar Prof. Niek Grové said that UP was able to manage the relationship with student groups behind the Fees Must Fall protests “in a manner that put the interest of the University first and resulted in minimal damage to property and/or threat to people”. “Through ongoing communication between the university management and student leaders, it was possible to avoid incidences of violence and damage to property,” said Grové. Grové expressed UP management’s appreciation for the responsible role played by UP students and student leaders. Grové also said that during the 2016 protests, a more volatile situation was present and although some damage was recorded, it was possible to curtail the damage by the physical closure of UP campuses.
In a statement by the SRC, it said that the 2016 SRC takes pride in the little to no damage done during the protests, citing the high discipline from UP students and the openness to engagement and right to peaceful protests as reasons. The SRC also added that it hopes that the same approach is followed in tackling similar issues which may arise in the year.
Image: Xander Janse van Rensburg