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The failure by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to attend a prayer service in Durban on Thursday infuriated a group of EFF-aligned university students who wanted to confront him about their demand for free education.

The Minister had been expected to attend the service organised by the Alliance of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of South Africa to pray for a peaceful solution to violent protests at universities in the country.

Many students were dressed in EFF regalia. They stormed an auditorium at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre demanding to speak to Nzimande.

They were allowed into the service “provided they behaved”. Inside they kept sarcastically shouting “Amen” during preachings. They even accepted an offer to be prayed for by a group of pastors.

If it had not been for the arrival of the students, the auditorium would have been almost empty.

After hearing that Nzimande had apologised for not attending, the students walked out angrily saying he was scared of facing them.

Pastor Trevor Shezi apologised on behalf of the minister. The pastor said the minister had earlier indicated that he was rushing to another engagement, and he could not attend the service because it started later than had been planned.

Menzi Ngubane from Unisa said he was angry that Nzimande had not pitched up.

“We want Blade, and we are angry that he did not appear. Our main point is to see Blade, not to attend the church service,” said Ngubane.

During the prayer Bishop Phumlani Ndlovu said the aim of the event was to pray for universities and the country because they had been captured by evil spirits.

“Our country does not have problems, but it is possessed by evil spirits which makes it harm itself.”

A #FeesMustFall campaign organiser, Sthembiso Shandu from the Tshwane University of Technology, said a large number of students would gather at the Gugu Dlamini Park on Friday afternoon to re-ignite their campaign.

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The Alliance of Pentecostal Charismatic Churches of South Africa prayed for universities at the ICC.