Some students are calling for their own version of the Marikana massacre to advance their cause for free education, Wits University Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said on Monday.
"I have listened to some protesters who say that they want their own Marikana. I was engaging a student yesterday who said that people must die to advance the movement," he said at a summit on higher education.
Students needed to stop romanticising violence, Habib said.
He urged Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, who was at the event, to ensure those responsible for damage and violence were prosecuted.
"We have had close to a billion rand’s worth of infrastructure burnt at our universities in the last 18 months, and yet not a single person has been arrested and convicted. How many places in the world do you know which would allow such a situation to exist? We have to fix the crisis in policing and prosecution," Habib told Nhleko.
He expressed disappointment with the presidential Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training. Delays had "aggravated matters" and students were embarking on another round of protests.
"Despite all these consultations, we don’t have a consensus," Habib said.
"I’m the bearer of bad news. Sixteen of 26 universities in the country are closed. If this situation does not change, we will not be able to graduate anyone this year. It’s a situation that we cannot afford."
Habib was speaking before students disrupted the summit, calling for President Jacob Zuma to come back after he had spoken. Earlier on Monday, Zuma made a brief speech in which he said he had instructed police to arrest those involved in the destruction of university property. He called for students to resume their classes.
Students on campuses around the country began protesting after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced on September 19 that universities could decide their own fee increases for 2017, but these had to be capped at 8% and poor students and the so-called 'missing middle' were also exempt.
The South African Union of Students was holding meetings with government leaders about the situation.