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David Makhura 'deeply concerned' about violent #fees2017 protests

Protests entered into a second week as students demonstrated against a fees announcement.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng Premier David Makhura says he understands and supports the fight for free education, but is concerned about the violence happening during Fees Must Fall protests.

Protests entered into a second week, as students demonstrated against Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande's announcement that universities would set 2017 fee increases within an eight percent cap.

Nzimande also said government would have subsidies to support the poor and so-called missing middle students.

During recent protests, a lecture hall at the University of Johannesburg's Bunting Road campus was set alight, while glass doors at the entrance of Wits' Great Hall were pelted with stones, as students had a standoff with police.

Makhura says he doesn't support these acts.

"The fact that the universities are not running normally and police have to go into campuses to try and protect university property worries me. It keeps me awake, every single day that a university is shut down."

Meanwhile, Wits management says it is prepared to engage with student leaders to reach a collective decision on the possible resumption of academic activity next week.

A poll conducted by the university this week saw the majority of surveyed students voting to return to class.

Academic activity was called off for an indefinite period last week, following disruptive fees protests.

The university said it only has a few days left to salvage the academic programme before students are seriously affected by the delays.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel says the university wants to involve students in a decision-making process that will hopefully recover what remains of the academic year.

"We've reached out to the students and sent a formal letter to the SRC, inviting them to meet with the executive management."

POWER

Wits SRC member Fasiha Hassan says the students have little negotiating power and will have to carefully consider their decision on resuming classes.

"We don't have money or position, we have nothing other than the academic programme."

But with more than 16,000 students opting to return to lectures, the university is likely to resume activity next week

FUNDING

Some school pupils have called on business and the private sector to help fund university students.

Yesterday, hundreds of pupils from the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) marched from the George Lea Park to the Sandton Central Park, to hand over a memorandum to JSE managers.

One student leader explained why it is important to invest in education. "It's for all the brothers and sisters who are being kicked out of universities without their degrees, because they cannot afford to pay for their fees. They encourage financial exclusion and we are here to say that the least they can do is to contribute to education."

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