The Fees Must Fall protests gripping the country are no longer about fees but about power and control, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has said.
And they are as much a threat to the future as apartheid once was, she said adding that the protests needed to be confronted head on.
“We had to stand up for the rule of law, we had to stand up for non-racialism…,” she said on Monday.
Speaking at the launch of her new book, Not Without a Fight, on Monday, she said the biggest failure the country faced was not having a properly organised, well-staffed and well-trained public order police force to deal with the protests.
“We shouldn’t be shooting bullets at kids. We should have our police force with really good shields at all campuses protecting people’s right to study,” she said.
Even if they had to use teargas and rubber bullets, she said, police still had to maintain public order.
“If the police get driven back by a group of students with rocks, we are in serious trouble in South Africa,” the former DA leader said.
While she understood that vice chancellors did not want to militarise campuses, a well-trained police force that could maintain order at all times was necessary, she reiterated.
“There is no other way out of this. What we have seen is negotiation after negotiation; the goal posts get moved every single time. It’s a deliberate strategy because people don’t want a resolution, they want a revolution and the challenge is you can’t assume people are acting in good faith,” she said.
In these circumstances, she said, people’s rights had to be protected with a well-trained, peaceful police force.
On Monday violence broke out at various campuses around the country including those at Wits University, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of the Free State.
The violence included the burning of a bus in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane on Monday said it was too early to declare a state of emergency.