Fees Must Fall damages bill puts govt under pressure

Minister Blade Nzimande said protest damage was estimated at almost half a billion rand.

Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - The Higher Education Department has called on vice chancellors to display leadership during disruptions at universities.

Earlier, Minister Blade Nzimande said damage to property, during student protests from October to last month, had been estimated at almost half a billion rand.

Nzimande yesterday held a meeting with student leaders and vice chancellors in Kempton Park.

He told vice chancellors that they must use the police to protect property, students and staff.

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His spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana says, "They must not sit back in their covered officers and should make sure they provide leadership. They must also work with the police."

Nzimande says government is now under pressure to find the money to cover the R460 million in damages.

He's called on student representative councils to relay a message to students, that no amount of anger can justify damage to property.

The North West University has been hit the hardest, with damages at the institution estimated at more than R150 million, followed by the University of Johannesburg's R100 million bill.

Nkwanyana says insurance companies won't cover all the expenses and the department has to pay the shortfall.

"It means that we as government, we must now divert a lot of money which was meant for many other things, like quality research, money meant for building more students' residences and so on, and redirect it to rebuilding damaged infrastructure."