Speaking on the sidelines of the South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) conference, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said that if he were the minister of higher education, he would shut universities down for six months.
According to reports from the conference, Mantashe said that universities should shut down for six months, and residences for another six months.
After a year, students would realise the importance of higher education, he said – that they aren’t doing anyone else any favours by studying; that it is for their own futures, and their futures are in their (the students’) hands.
“Sometimes you must deepen the crisis to resolve the crisis”, saying that the move would show students that higher education cannot be tampered with.
Angry students have taken to campuses across the country in protest, fighting against a planned fee hike for 2017. Higher Education minister, Blade Nzimande, announced on Monday that it would be up to university councils to set their own fee hikes – but recommended that they go no higher than 8%.
Students, who are calling for free education, clashed with police on Tuesday, as campuses at UCT, Wits, UFS and others were shut down. Wits, specifically, closed campus activities including classes and tests for the rest of the week.
According to Mantashe, the right to education comes with responsibility, with the SG saying that anarchy cannot be allowed. “If we destroy universities, we won’t have them for tomorrow – and the dream of free education will be out the window,” he said.
If students were prepared to burn the institutes down, the only way to protect them would be to shut them down, and keep them closed until students were prepared to come back and study.
“Unfortunately, I am not the minister,” he said.
The SG backed Nzimande’s plan for government to subsidise poor students – both on NSFAS and in the “missing middle” – while those who earn enough money and could afford fees should continue paying.