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Violent protests undo learning

25 September 2014 - 02:00 By Khaye Nkwanyana

Damage to university property during student protests is extremely distasteful and abhorrent.

More disturbing is the degenerate quality of the students' elected leadership.

When I was a student, I helped lead many protests based on specific issues after all attempts to negotiate had failed. Planning and co-ordination were always meticulously managed.

There will always be those who resort to criminality, but it is the task of leaders to call for discipline and maintain order. I don't remember being part of a protest that resulted in damage to property. We knew the university belonged to us and to future generations, and needed to be protected.

The recent protests in Limpopo during which cars were burnt, the University of KwaZulu-Natal protest that caused damage to property, and the recent mayhem at the Tshwane University of Technology that resulted in 18 cars being burnt are startling evidence of diminished student leadership. Student councils fail to lead students during the protests they initiate, and are then overpowered by the populist frontrunners.

The leaders tacitly allow violence as it validates their strength and captures the country's attention.

Electoral considerations may be at play, but ill-disciplined leaders face criminal charges for damage.

  • Nkwanyana is spokesman for Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande but writes in his personal capacity