President Zuma breaks his silence on #Fees2017 protests

The president has urged students to cooperate with Blade Nzimande, saying he has his full support.

President Jacob Zuma.  Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has broken his silence on the latest 'Fees Must Fall' protests across the country, urging students and universities to cooperate with Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

Zuma says he is concerned about the violence that has broken out after the announcement by Nzimande on Monday that fees will increase, but not more than eight percent.

The presidency's spokesperson, Bongani Ngqulunga, says the president urges students to explore peaceful avenues to resolve the challenge.

"The president has urged all university stakeholders to work together with the minister of higher education to resolve the matter. He also wants to state that he fully supports the minister of higher education on this issue."

From parents, business, political parties, religious and traditional leaders, the president says society should work together.

"We urge the students to explore peaceful avenues to engage on this issue constructively. The destruction of property is a criminal offence and will be treated as such by the law enforcement authorities. We have directed the police to ensure that all such cases reach the courts and that those responsible answer for their actions. This infrastructure must be available for use by generations to come, and students should respect university property as leaders of the future," added the president in a statement.

But, protests continue around the country this afternoon, while several universities remain shut as students demand free higher education.

Meanwhile, Wits University students are singing and chanting ahead of their march to Cosatu House this afternoon to lobby the labour union federation for support, in their efforts to push government to implement free education

Former SRC president Mcebo Dlamini says the federation has a responsibility to side with students.

"We are going to Cosatu to say that as representatives of the working class, you can't afford to be quite and your silence is very loud."

He says students want Cosatu to act.

"We want Cosatu to say when they'll call workers to the streets, so that government will implement free education."

The federation has previously said students should direct their anger towards private companies instead of government, which it says has made strides in helping poor students.

Last night, student leaders resolved to continue their demonstration for free higher education, which is also aimed at targeting certain organisations, government departments and the private sector.