Stu­dents await Zuma’s ver­dict on ter­tiary fees

CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s de­lay in re­leas­ing the He­her com­mis­sion re­port on the fea­si­bil­ity of free higher ed­u­ca­tion has left ter­tiary stu­dents wor­ried that in­sti­tu­tions could in­crease fees next year.

Stu­dent ac­tivist groups told City Press this week that they were run­ning out of time as the 2017 aca­demic year was near­ing com­ple­tion.

The ANC-aligned SA Stu­dent Congress (Sasco) has writ­ten to Zuma to re­quest a meet­ing next week.

Sasco sec­re­tary-gen­eral Tem­bani Makata said the pres­i­dency had not con­tacted them since re­ceiv­ing the re­port.

“Al­most ev­ery­one is wait­ing. But we do not ex­pect a de­vi­a­tion from the pro­nounce­ment made by the ANC at its lek­gotla,” he said, re­fer­ring to the party’s toplevel lek­gotla, held at the end of July, in which it was de­cided that, from next year, fully sub­sidised grants should be pro­vided to aca­dem­i­cally qual­i­fy­ing poor stu­dents.

These were de­fined as stu­dents from fam­i­lies who earned a gross an­nual in­come of R150 000 or less. It was also de­cided that stu­dents who came from house­holds earn­ing be­tween R150 000 and R600 000 a year should be sub­sidised through a com­bi­na­tion of grants and loans.

“We are not in a po­si­tion to al­low the ex­clu­sion of stu­dents on the ba­sis of fund­ing,” said Makata, re­it­er­at­ing Sasco’s con­cern that no dis­cus­sions had been held re­gard­ing fee in­creases for next year.

To­mor­row marks the third week since the re­port, headed by Judge Jonathan He­her, was handed to the pres­i­dent. Zuma had promised to study its rec­om­men­da­tions and make the re­port avail­able to the pub­lic in due course.

The so-called fees com­mis­sion, set up in Jan­uary last year, was given a time frame to com­plete the re­port within eight months. How­ever, the dead­line was ex­tended to July this year.

Ren­dani Ne­matswerani, deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers’ (EFF) stu­dent com­mand, said they were also in the dark, but did not ex­pect Zuma to an­nounce that there would be free higher ed­u­ca­tion.

“He should have done that by now,” he said, adding that he sus­pected an an­nounce­ment would prob­a­bly be made by pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whose can­di­dacy Zuma sup­ported and who was re­cently ap­pointed as an MP.

Ne­matswerani echoed spec­u­la­tion on so­cial-me­dia net­works that Dlamini-Zuma was likely to re­place Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande, who is also gen­eral sec­re­tary of the SA Com­mu­nist Party, which has re­peat­edly spo­ken out against state cap­ture un­der Zuma’s lead­er­ship.

The EFF leader said his party had planned a pro­gramme of ac­tion with stu­dent groups that shared their views if an an­nounce­ment about free higher ed­u­ca­tion in 2018 was made.

“We will con­tinue to wait for Zuma. We do not want to be seen as hooli­gans and as dis­rup­tive,” he said.

Piwe Mpahlwa, pres­i­dent of the Pan African­ist Stu­dent Move­ment of Aza­nia, said they ex­pected the com­mis­sion’s re­port to re­flect is­sues raised by stu­dents.

Madikwe Mabotha, spokesper­son for the depart­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing, said he did not know if Zuma and Nz­i­mande had dis­cussed the mat­ter, but added that Cab­i­net would de­cide, pos­si­bly by next month, if there would be in­creases next year.

Mabotha re­fused to com­ment on whether Nz­i­mande would be reshuf­fled or not.

Avela Mja­jubana, pres­i­dent of the SA Union of Stu­dents, said they were also wait­ing for Zuma.

At­tempts by City Press to get com­ment from the pres­i­dency and #FeesMustFall proved fruit­less.

Yusuf Cas­sim, leader of the DA Stu­dent Or­gan­i­sa­tion, said the com­mis­sion was a de­lay tac­tic by Zuma.

“This ... re­port must be re­leased to the pub­lic.

If its rec­om­men­da­tions are good for stu­dents, they must be im­ple­mented by the ANC govern­ment,” he said.

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