University funding to be debated in Parliament today


Measures on ending the ongoing protest action by students against fee hikes for next year, is expected to take centre stage when the matter comes before the National Assembly later this afternoon.

Last week, students from universities across the country staged protest actions and blocked campuses in response to the Department of Higher Education’s proposed six percent fee increases.

On Wednesday, students from the University of Cape Town managed to gain entry to the precinct of Parliament where Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was presenting his mid-term budget speech. A report 29 students, including the sons of university Vice Chancellor Max Price and Apostolic Faith Mission President Rev Frank Chikane, were arrested and dozen other injured when heavily armed riot police fired stun grenades and tear gas after they succeeded in reaching the steps of Parliament.

Two days later, students from the University of the Witwatersrand staged a protest outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where President Jacob Zuma was discussing ways on resolving the matter with various Vice-Chancellors.

The protest turned violent not long after it started, when angry students started breaking down a metal fence and throwing rocks at armed riot police standing on the other side. Tyres and a number of portable toilets were also burned with the protestors demanding the dropping of fees and being personally addressed by Zuma.

Later, Zuma announced that the increases would be scrapped with the news doing little to prevent the protesters from receding.

According to the latest reports, classes at Wits and UCT have been suspended while further protest flared up again yesterday at the campuses of the University of the Western Cape, Walter Sisulu University and University of Limpopo.

Speaking in a statement, Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Higher Education, Belinda Bozzoli, said comments made by Minister Blade Nzimande over the weekend, is proof that only the ruling African National Congress (ANC) could be blamed for the crisis.

“Minister Nzimande let slip to the Sunday Times that that eight universities are on the verge of bankruptcy and will require bailouts.

“The simple truth is that there is money that can be used if the ANC and Minister Nzimande got their priorities right. This should have happened several years ago when the Minister was warned of the impending crisis,” Bozzoli said.

She also stated that Nzimande’s failure to react when the protests first broke out at Wits two weeks ago, “shows the depths to which government’s management of our higher learning institutions has sunk”.

“The Minister’s inaction on a matter of such importance for our country demonstrates that he is not serious about the office he holds, and to ensuring that poor, qualifying students are provided the support they need to pursue a better future”.