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Jeff Radebe says 'university vandals are criminals to be dealt with firmly'

Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe called on authorities to deal "firmly" with all who damage university property.

 

Radebe was speaking to reporters during a post-Cabinet briefing in Parliament on Thursday. The Cabinet briefing follows destruction of university infrastructure, including a library at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

There have also been reports of behind-the-scenes discussions between Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande and universities, while a commission chaired by Judge Jonathan Heher investigates university fees.

Radebe said the Cabinet had expressed concern about the resurgence of violent protests at universities, and was of the view that the destruction of the library was criminal and detracted from the "legitimate issues" at universities.

"The resources destroyed, including a library, as witnessed at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, [as well as] books and infrastructure, is unacceptable and destroys the knowledge capital accumulated over time. These are acts of criminality to which the law enforcement agencies must respond firmly," he said.

When asked about the latest developments in discussions for the fees in the 2017 academic year, in which universities are reported to be pushing for a 7% increase while Nzimande is prepared to settle for 6%, Radebe asked that the commission be given time before a decision is made.

"The discussions between the Department of Higher Education and universities are ongoing. We ask that these matters be allowed to continue until Ministers (Pravin) Gordhan and Nzimande make an announcement," he said.

He said there were "legitimate" students who wished to continue with their academic year uninterrupted and who did not want the violence and destruction of property on campuses to continue.

"Destruction is a criminal activity. I do not believe genuine students would damage property. Those books are irreplaceable. Grievances of students are being undermined by criminal elements that look to destroy property," he said.

The Cabinet remained committed to "a phased realisation of free education for the poor within fiscal affordability".

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