The country is far from declaring a state of emergency, acting national Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane said on Monday.
"We believe we are too far from a state of emergency."
Phahlane said the country could not declare a state of emergency as yet because the violence during student protests was taking place in confined places.
"We believe sense will prevail. Parents, leaders and roleplayers must engage... As and when the need arises, there are processes, but we believe we are too far from that."
Phahlane said criminal elements had infiltrated the student protests.
He warned that those who had destroyed property and acted violently would be arrested.
Phahlane was speaking as protests at several universities raged on.
Student protesters had earlier torched a bus in Braamfontein.
Several clashes between police and students from universities across the country have been reported.
Universities had intended to reopen academic programmes on Monday.