Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has blamed the state for the long-running Fees Must Fall protests in most higher institutions of learning in the country.
The minister said had it been government had a clear picture of the students’ demands and listened to them, violence in the institutions wouldn’t have escalated to its present state.
“I was quick to say, after they spoke to us, that we have not listened to these kids. They are making a demand, but in their documents, there are clear proposals on how to solve this thing,” the minister said.
Taking on the police, Mapisa-Nqakula expressed deep concern about the way they handle the protesters. She slammed the police for handling the students roughly, especially protesters at Wits and Rhodes university.
Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula Slams Police
She disclosed that police ought to neutralize the situation by attacking students’ lower bodies, their feet or even the ground and not to shoot their upper bodies with rubber bullets.
According to the minister, police using shields, batons, water cannons, teargas, and rubber bullets shows that they are acting under panic.
She pressed home the fact that government and the protesters are unable to sink their differences because the state has refused to listen to the students.
In conclusion, the minister who spoke to reporters on Wednesday said the only way to appease the students is for government to go back to the drawing board. She also debunked speculations that she plans to deploy armies to the universities.
Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is part of the ministerial task team set up earlier this month by President Jacob Zuma. The team is saddled with the responsibility of helping Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande end protests at universities. Other members include ministers of home affairs; state security; police; planning and monitoring; and justice.
The FeesMustFall protests have turned out to be a pain in government’s neck; a nightmare for students who are willing to study; and a can of worms – too difficult for government to handle.
No fewer than 70 students have been arrested so far. Most of them – including the protest ringleader Dlamini Mcebo- were denied bail when they appeared before the courts earlier this week.