Where will Zuma get the money to fund free education‚ asks SACP
President Jacob Zuma’s announcement of free higher education a few weeks ago was opportunistic and part of a ploy to win votes for his preferred candidate for the ANC presidency‚ the South African Communist Party (SACP) said on Wednesday.
In its year-end message‚ the SACP demanded to know where the money to fund free higher education will come from.
Zuma announced on December 16 that the government will introduce fully subsidised‚ free higher education and training for poor and working-class undergraduate students. This will start in 2018 for first-year students at public universities and be phased in over five years.
Zuma’s announcement coincided with the first day of the ANC’s national conference in Johannesburg‚ at which Cyril Ramaphosa was elected the new ANC president.
"The issue of where the money will come from is of great importance and must be clarified as a matter urgency. The SACP is concerned about the silence of President Jacob Zuma on where the money will come from. We hope that this will not amount to increasing VAT or recklessly using workers’ money‚ either in the Unemployment Insurance Fund or the Public Investment Corporation‚" the party said.
The SACP‚ which forms part of the tripartite alliance with union federation Cosatu and the ANC‚ said if the public funds are used to pay for free higher education‚ it "will be tantamount to robbing the poor instead of fairly redistributing production income by taxing the rich and the wealthy to fund students from poor and working class backgrounds".
The SACP said that although the President’s announcement was possibly "harbouring other motives"‚ it should not be allowed to "subvert the importance of accelerated roll-out of free education to students from working-class and poor households".
The SACP’s general secretary Blade Nzimande was minister of higher education during the time the Fees Must Fall protests erupted in 2015 and 2016. Nzimande was axed from his position in Zuma’s second Cabinet reshuffle of 2017.
Shortly after the announcement earlier in December‚ Cosatu issued a statement supporting free higher education‚ but expressed the wish that it be funded by business. The federation hinted that a VAT increase in February would be unacceptable‚ demanding "the introduction of redistributive tax interventions‚ which will include an introduction of [a] progressive tax system and force the super-rich to contribute towards funding free education".