Wits University students have embarked on a shutdown of the institution after the Minister of Higher Education failed to announce free education at a press conference earlier this morning.

Minister Blade Nzimande said universities needed to determine their own fee increases but added that this increase should be capped at 8%.

Nzimande added that government will absorb the cost of the increase of the “missing middle” and students on the NSFAS scheme and anticipates that this coverage will cost approximately R6,5-R6,6 billion. According to Nzimande, the “missing middle” refers to households earning less than R600 000 per annum.

Responding to comments about potential protests at campuses around the country, Nzimande said that higher education is not free and that a moratorium on fees “means you are campaigning for the rich”. Nzimande says that those who can afford to pay for tertiary education adding that government was unclear on how parents can send their children to private schools and yet expect to have their tertiary education subsidised.

Responding to the announcement by the minister, incoming SRC president Kefentse Mkhari told a gathering in Solomon Mahlangu House: “Basically what the minister is saying is that there will be a fee increase so the university must shutdown.”

The official shutdown is set to start tomorrow as protest leaders move from venue to venue to gather more students. Wits vice chancellor Professor Adam Habib told Wits Vuvuzela that is currently overseas in New York at a UN General Assembly for the launch of HEforSHE campaign. Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said: We will consult with stakeholders and make further comment afterwards.