President Jacob Zuma announced his support for no fees increase for all SA universities come 2017.
The school fees increase was one of the key issues SA universities tried to battle out with student unions of various universities in the country, as they stated that the institution is ‘financially vulnerable’ and incapable to foot free fees for students from 2017 academic session.
Giving his final virdict on the issue, Pesident Jacob Zuma ordered finance minister Pravin Gordhan and higher education minister Blade Nzimande to scout for money to accommodate the 0% fee increase for students for next year.
He ordered the ministers to implement students’ demands for a zero-percent increase in university fees for 2017 – despite warnings from Nzimande who insisted that universities needed an increase of at least 6% in 2017 if they were to avoid “collapse”.
President Zuma, at a meeting on Sunday afternoon at the St George’s Hotel in Irene, Tshwane, clearly stated that he backed the call for zero-fee tertiary education by the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA).
Zuma’s stand in favour of the student union, is considered a good move in halting another violence in the country which was earlier anticipted by treasury and education department, following their decision to go ahead with fees increase.
Treasury and the department of higher education were prepared for a student revolt, and had anticipated being able to engage with students over a compromise increase – explaining that it had to be done on the back of 2016’s zero rate.
Report from two senior officials who had knowledge of Zuma’s meeting on Sunday, confirmed that Zuma told Gordhan that he would have to re-prioritize his budget to make provision for additional university funding to accommodate the 0% fee increase for 2017.
A government official said that, before last weekend, Nzimande’s department was hoping all parties and students would accept a 6% increase. The senior official said:
“The president said the finance minister must go back and see where he can get money for the fee freeze. Nzimande was clear that some sort of fee was necessary, or universities were going to collapse.
“The president insisted that they look for the money and see what they could do.”
However, analysts are of the view that Zuma’s stance in the no fees increase for SA universities was a move by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to adopt a more populist stance in order to claw back support from voters, having suffered a significant blow in the recent elections.