Nzimande to address student protests on social media next week

After a week of violent protests at several universities across the country, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s spokesperson said the minister would address students’ issues on social media next Monday. 

Nzimande has not issued any statements or addressed students during the violent protests at the University of Pretoria, University of the Free State and the North West University.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande

News24 phoned Nzimande’s spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana on Friday to inquire about the minister’s whereabouts and plan of action following the protests which left some students injured, others detained and some university buildings destroyed.

“He will answer all of those issues on the Twitter session on Monday,” Nkwanyana said.

Earlier, Nzimande used his Twitter account to invite people to pose questions to him at #AskBlade.

Bonginkosi Nzimande @DrBladeNzimande said: “For 24 hours I invite you to #AskBlade questions you have about #HigherEducation – Will post Answers Monday 29 Feb.”

Scores of Twitter users have responded.

Meanwhile, at the University of Pretoria, students have protested against the institution’s language policy. At least 27 people were arrested last week Friday for public violence and they appeared in court on Monday. Charges against three of them were dropped. Their case was postponed to April 7.

The university has been closed because of ongoing student protests and violence.

At the University of the Free State, students protested against outsourcing and demanded the removal of Rector and Vice Chancellor Jonathan Jansen.

The issues about outsourcing were resolved and the students were told their call for Jansen’s removal would be referred to the institution’s management structures.

Students rejected this response and allegedly tried to vandalise a statue of former Orange Free State president Marthinus Theunis Steyn. Police fired rubber bullets, used stun grenades and arrested 21 students.

Charges against 12 of them were withdrawn by a Bloemfontein magistrate on Friday. The remaining nine students were released on a warning and will appear again on March 31.

North West University announced on Friday that it had suspended its former student representative council Mahikeng campus president, Linda Benz Mabengwane, for three years for misconduct.

Mabengwane was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing of five of the six charges brought against him. The five charges were: disrupting the institution’s registration process at the campus in January; assaulting a fellow student; violating a court interdict; interfering with managerial functions; and engaging with the media on topics intended to bring the university into disrepute.

The campus was closed indefinitely after students torched buildings following clashes with security officials from a private company.

It was understood that clashes erupted shortly after the campus’s new student representative council was appointed.

Some students later took to Twitter to claim security officials had used live ammunition to disperse the students – a claim the university has denied.

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