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‘Violence at universities goes against the essence of learning’

President Jacob Zuma says universities should be places of tolerance that allow for open debate.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma says violence on university campuses goes against the very essence of institutions of higher learning.

Zuma says universities should be places of tolerance that allow for open debate.

The president was speaking at the Union Buildings on Tuesday where he met with leaders of various institutions to find solutions to issues including violent student protests.

Zuma says students should be able to address their grievances without resorting to lawlessness.

He says many of the recent campus conflicts are linked to an emerging culture of political intolerance.

"It is completely unacceptable in our democracy that disputes within a university should lead to physical clashes."

Zuma has called on students to preserve the culture of universities as places of free speech, academic freedom and independent thinking.

Meanwhile, as government and South African universities vow to tackle transformation in higher education, calls have been made for language not to be used as a tool of isolation.

Chairperson of the Universities of South Africa Adam Habib says the improper use of language by institutions has the ability to alienate groups of people.

"Where any language, including Afrikaans, is used as a means to simply house within an institution a particular racial group then it violates the very constitution we serve."

Recently there have been tensions at Stellenbosch University which has been accused of using Afrikaans to exclude some students.

Habib says the preservation of all South African languages is welcomed as long as they are not being used to exclude others.