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Sat Oct 01 15:46:11 CAT 2016

Varsity hotheads prefer thuggery to using their brains

The Times Editorial | 23 September, 2016 08:12

It is understandable perhaps that the anarchy raging on and around many of our universities is being given blanket coverage while the commission that is investigating the feasibility of free higher education - the stated goal of the protesters - is receiving very little media attention.

After all, all the action is in the streets and on the campuses. This is the playground of the privileged hotheads - some of whom are paying no fees at all - who throw rocks at the police and private security guards, force other students out of lecture rooms, burn down buildings, torch "colonial" art and a law library, and toss petrol bombs into auditoriums.

Yesterday's unforgivable arson attack on a building at the University of Fort Hare is just the latest in a string of criminal acts on campuses around the country over the past year. Hundreds of millions of rands of damage has been wreaked by militants since the start of the #FeesMustFall campaign, which was born out of widespread frustration at the sky-high cost of a university education, particularly for the poor.

The protest organisers insist that their supporters are not to blame for the mayhem and the arson, but as the appalling damages bill mounts the excuses are starting to wear thin. Why are legitimate protesters not isolating the thugs?

The police must round up the perpetrators of public violence and speedily charge them. The NPA needs to fast-track prosecutions and the courts need to throw the book at offenders.

If the violence cannot be contained, affected campuses will have to be closed and students sent home for their own safety. Parents do not send their children to university to expose them to danger.

In the interim, the commission charged with exploring ways to ease the plight of poor families desperate to secure a university education for their youngsters should be allowed to continue its important work.

Imagine what could be accomplished if the protesters spent less time shouting the odds and more on developing reasoned arguments and presenting them to the commission.

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