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‘Protesters should have raised grievances via formal channels’

Mduduzi Manana is at NWU to meet with management after violent protests on Wednesday.

Deputy Minister of Higher Education Mduduzi Manana has inspected the fire damage at North West University and has condemned the destruction of the institution's facilities. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

MAHIKENG - Deputy Minister of Higher Education Minister Mduduzi Manana has described as unfortunate the burning down of a building at the North West University's (NWU) Mafikeng campus.

He says protesters could have raised their grievances with officials via formal channels.

Manana is at the institution to meet with members of senior management who are briefing him on what caused the violent protests on Wednesday.

Manana says students at the Mafikeng campus should have used the channels available to them to have their concerns addressed, instead of setting a building alight.

"We are at pains as the department and as government that those students resorted to this kind of an action."

But students are adamant they weren't the ones who set the building on fire.

Former SRC member, Paseka Molete, said, "People are going around on social media telling lies that students have burnt down their own campus. There is no way we can do that to our campus; we know that this campus holds our future."

Manana will be taken on a tour of the university to assess the extent of the damage.

WATCH: NW University closed indefinitely after burning of Science Centre

The Deputy Minister says he believes current student protests are part of an agenda to topple South Africa's higher education system.

He has warned those responsible for violence at universities that they will face the consequences.

Manana says following the Fees Must Fall marches, abnormal behaviour has emerged from students.

"It's not normal. We cannot have events following one another in the manner that they are."

He says any threat to the higher education sector is a threat to the State, and warned that if the sector is destroyed it will never recover.

"It would seem there is a deliberate programme to collapse the system, but also to collapse the state. This is the engine; you collapse education, you collapse the engine."

Management at the university says it will do all it can to restore time lost during its first semester due to student protests.

The Department of Higher Education says it supports the decision to close the campus.

Vice Chancellor at university, Dan Kgwadi, says management will try its best to minimise the effect of the disruptions on students.

"We will not allow acts of hooliganism like what have seen to sabotage the academic projects and the future of our students."

Deputy Minister Manana says while he understands students are upset about being sent back home, the evacuation was for their own good.

"We sympathise with the students that have had to go home, but it is for their own safety."

NWU is currently unable to indicate when students can return.

WATCH: 'We can't collapse higher education'

Meanwhile, in the Western Cape the Fees Must Fall movement says it had nothing to do with the vandalism of more than a dozen buildings at the University of the Western Cape.

Over a dozen buildings were vandalised overnight at the Bellville campus with messages like "Fees Must Fall" and "SRC Must Fall" sprawled across it.

This week, workers have been protesting against outsourcing at the institution with Fees Must Fall representatives joining their cause.

The group of workers and students, who are not allowed on campus, are continuing their demonstrations outside campus gates today.

Fees Must Fall's Gabriella Oliver says, "Fees Must Fall was not involved in the vandalism of university property. However, we do not condemn those actions."

WATCH: UWC classes disrupted by striking cleaners

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