Gwede Mantashe said blame should not be shifted away from universities to government and the ruling party as universities take unilateral decisions when it comes to fee increments.
“University councils and vice-chancellors abuse this autonomy to commercialise education and exclude students on the basis of price and race,” he said.
He was addressing reporters at Luthuli House while students from Wits and the University of Johannesburg were planning to occupy the ANC’s headquarters.
Students from both universities attempted to march from Braamfontein across Nelson Mandela Bridge to the ANC’s headquarters in an effort to intensify their protest. However, police blocked students from passing while some student leaders attempted to dissuade students from marching to Luthuli House.
Mantashe said universities take unilateral decisions that are not dictated to by the minister of higher education or government.
“If those decisions boomerang they should not shift blame to anyone else.They should take responsibility,” he said.
Mantashe said the blame of the fees crises has been misplaced.
“University management must not be arrogant in dealing with grievances of the students,” he said.
Commenting on the brutal force used by police against protesting students outside Parliament on Wednesday, Mantashe sought to condemn it.
“Where the police act with brute force against students, they must be condemned and those responsible must be held to account,” he said.
Mantashe further warned students not to allow their legitimate struggles to be over taken by anarchist. He said once there is violence, student struggles would be dwarfed.
The #FeesMustFall protests began eight days ago at Wits University and have spiralled to almost all universities across the country.
While protests have been mostly peaceful, police have been accused of being heavy handed in dealing with students.
The ANC is expected to meet with student representatives on Thursday afternoon. Mantashe said if students protest outside Luthuli House they would listen to their demands.