Minister urges students not to vandalise buildings
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says universities hold important records of South Africa’s history.
JOHANNESBURG/PRETORIA - Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says Wits University holds important records of South Africa's history and has appealed to protesting students not to vandalise buildings.
Nzimande and Police Minister Nathi Nhleko visited the institution this morning to call on students across the country to respect university property after the recent disruptions over language policies and outsourcing.
LISTEN: #UFS vice-chancellor speaks out after brawl
Nzimande says he visited Wits to show members of the public why it's dangerous to destroy university property.
"To ensure that a few of the things housed here, such as the original court records of the Rivonia Trial are protected, but all our universities have got records that hold historical significance that we need to protect."
WATCH: #UFS: Tensions soar, 21 students arrested
Nzimande and Nhleko say engagement with university management can still take place peacefully.
A small group of students chanted "Blade must fall", while he was addressing the media on the steps of the Wits library.
They believe Nzimande isn't addressing the real issues affecting students across the country.
TUKS SRC WELCOMES REOPENING OF CAMPUSES
At the same time, the University of Pretoria's Student Representative Council (SRC) has welcomed management's decision to reopen its Hatfield and Groenkloof campuses, saying it's committed to ongoing talks on transformation.
Management suspended academic activity at the campuses last week following disruptions by a group calling for Afrikaans to be scrapped as a language of instruction.
Security and the police have been instructed to enforce a zero-tolerance approach to violent demonstrations and disruptions.
SRC president Thabo Shingange says students can't afford to lose more days of the academic calendar.
"It's been six days or so that the university has shutdown and six days of the academic programme is quite a concern for the SRC. We welcome a decision to stabilise the institution as quickly as possible."
The university's Anna-Retha Bouwer says their main concern is the safety of the students and staff.
"We have our own security measures put in place and we also have the cooperation of the police. There is strict control here today and students need to present student cards to get in."
Public Order Police have been deployed to the campus.
WATCH: UP shut down after stand-off over Afrikaans
EFF WON'T GIVE UP
Meanwhile, The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Student Command has vowed to continue its fight against Afrikaans.
The EFF Student Command's Kabelo Mahlobogwane says university management is going to great lengths to protest against white interests.
"They'll do anything, even if it means killing and criminalising African students. We will not stop our call for Afrikaans to fall. As African people, all South African languages must get equal treatment at the University of Pretoria."
He says at least four student command members have been suspended.
Earlier today, Nzimande accused the EFF of " gambling" with the future of students.
The minister has called on students to return to class, saying it's possible to protest while studying.
He says while it's important that students remain committed to their cause, they also need to continue with their studies.
"There is no contradiction with being in class and being committed to the struggle to transform our universities. We have to do both those things at the same time, we can't sacrifice one."
Management says so far, there have been no incidents today.