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Presidency confirms special meeting to discuss fees protests

Minister Jeff Radebe says President Zuma has called a meeting with the justice cluster.

University of Johannesburg students raise their hands in front of a riot police line while blocking a motorway during clashes on September 28, 2016 outside the University of Johannesburg Campus. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe says Cabinet is deeply concerned by the levels of violence and destruction at the country's universities.

The minister confirmed at a post-Cabinet briefing in Pretoria that President Jacob Zuma has called a special meeting of the security, justice and crime prevention cluster to discuss the issue.

Several campuses have been shut down due to student demonstrations since the announcement last week that fees would increase by as much as eight percent next year.

Minister Radebe says Cabinet extensively discussed the situation at universities, which is why President Zuma has called a special meeting with the justice cluster.

"So he can have a full briefing of what steps are being taken to bring order in our institutions of higher learning."

He has urged the police to act with maximum restraint.

"But when the law is being violated, actions must be taken to bring that to an end."

The police have been accused a number of times of brutality in their response to demonstrators.

MEASURES IN PLACE TO ACHIEVE SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS

Meanwhile, the Presidency says measures are in place to achieve sustainable solutions to the current education crisis.

President Zuma says there are strategies in place to work toward making the education system more accessible, and short term solutions like paying for the so-called missing middle have been introduced.

Zuma has called for students to also respect law enforcement authorities on campuses.

Spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga says the president met with the security cluster this afternoon to discuss containing the violence on campus.

"They are supposed to realise that it's a delicate balance that we are working with; because on the one hand you have students' right to protest, and the state can't prevent students from protesting, while on the other side we have to make sure that we don't allow the destruction of property and the threatened violence."

At the same time, Wits University's Vice Chancellor Adam Habib says if universities do not open within the next few weeks, it may result in some students not being able to register next year.

At least 10 universities have been shut down in the wake of fees must fall demonstrations nationwide.

Habib is warning that some faculties are reaching a point of no return.

"If nobody graduates this year, then nobody can come in next year because the system is premised on some people leaving and new people coming in. It will create a massive crash in the system; and my fear is that the people who are messing around with the system, have no idea what they are playing around with."

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