Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande addresses the media on a new centralized system to deal with late tertiary education applications on October 11, 2012 in Johannesburg.
PRETORIA – Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says the government simply can&39;t afford free university fees for all and that this can only apply to poor students.
The government has been forced to take a stand on the matter following two weeks of violent protests by students countrywide calling for fees to be scrapped.
The protests began at Wits University on October 19 and escalated to universities across the country including Stellenbosch, UCT and Walter Sisulu University, among others.
Wits students initially demanded a 0 percent increment for next year, but protesting students then expressed a need for free tertiary education in the country.
On October 23, President Jacob Zuma agreed to a zero percent fee increment for next year, but Nzimande has said there just isn&39;t enough money for free higher education.
He didn&39;t mince his words while addressing Parliament&39;s portfolio committee on higher education.
"Government&39;s policy is free higher education for the poor. It&39;s not for everyone... wealthy students must pay because they have an economic advantage."
Nzimande said to fulfill the no-fee policy for poor students, they&39;re tightening repayment terms of students who benefited from the National Students Financial Aid Scheme.
But DA MP Belinda Bozzoli countered: "You have been left to shifting money from one side to another and next we will have strikes at FET colleges because they don&39;t have enough money so the crisis is much bigger than fiddling money from one side to another. "
But officials defended police action, which was deemed by many to have been heavy-handed.
Higher Education Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana said: &39;&39;We would be sitting here with another Marikana, our police really acted, you know, they exercised serious restraint.
"And there is no doubt that they were provoked."
Committee chairperson Yvonne Phosa said: "Maybe water cannons are best when dealing with students, not rubber bullets or teargas to avoid unintended consequences."
Nzimande called on students to return to class and for parents to help to get the exam timetables back on track.
However, certain groups of students are continuing to protest, pressuring the government to come up with a long-term solution to the problem of high tertiary fees in the country.
Protesting students are also demanding that universities stop outsourcing labour as this leads to cleaners and security at universities not only being contract workers with no benefits, but also being paid extremely low salaries.
Other students want an end to the protesting so they can complete exams timeously.
For a detailed report, watch the video above.