On 18 March, the Higher Education Convention, organised by former Constitutional Court Deputy Chief and mediator at the meeting, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, took place at the Eskom Academy of Learning in Midrand. The convention was however cancelled after students who were allegedly aligned with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) refused to give Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, an opportunity to give his speech. Some students objected to the presence of Nzimande who, according to SABC News, was heckled by students upon entering the venue.

The two-day convention focused on the challenges that tertiary institutions are facing, such as the demand for free decolonised higher education. The gathering was attended by students, academic staff (including university vice-chancellors), politicians, and businesses who were anticipated to make proposals on the government’s plan for the education sector.

Incidents of heckling and disruption were followed by a fight between EFF students and those aligned to Fees Must Fall (FMF) movements at some universities. The programme directors ordered everyone out of the tent as students became violent. According to News24, Nzimande is believed to have been escorted away from the premises by his security team.

The proceedings were temporarily suspended and Moseneke told EWN that he is “disappointed” and “personally deeply saddened” that “he had to call off the convention due to multiple violent disruptions”.

Fees Must Fall movements took to social media to nationally and “vehemently reject the Higher Education National Crisis Forum conference”, which the FMF delegates believe is a “disingenuous attempt at free education”.

The Department of University Relations at UP stated that “The University of Pretoria is disappointed that the convention had to be cancelled. However, we recognise the effort put into convening this summit as well as the progress made up to the point of the cancellation. We remain committed to working with all stakeholders in finding solutions to the issues facing higher education in an environment of mutual respect and understanding.”

Photo: Sourced iol.com.

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