DA unimpressed by Mkhize's briefing on free higher education

2018-01-04 19:47

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Cape Town – A press briefing, held to shed light on the government's plans regarding free higher education, did little to allay the DA's fears about the issue.

On Wednesday, DA higher education and training spokesperson Belinda Bozzoli called on greater leadership from the government in the wake of President Jacob Zuma's announcement on free higher education.

On Thursday Minister of Higher Education and Training Hlengiwe Mkhize held a press briefing to do just that and flesh out plans for free higher education, without explaining where the money for it would come from.

Mkhize said it would be implemented over five years and that the decision wasn't made to disrupt the autonomy and functioning of universities.

The threshold to qualify for financial assistance has been raised from R122 000 per household per annum to R350 000.

With Mkhize, was State Security Minister Bongani Bongo, who serves in the inter-ministerial committee on higher education and who said: "Issues of Higher Education are issues of State Security at the same time."

Also read: Zuma's fee free plan may cause chaos at SA's universities

In reaction, Bozzoli said in a statement that the DA "remains deeply concerned by the complete lack of leadership from Jacob Zuma’s administration on the higher education funding crisis".

She said the press conference proved only one thing: "Jacob Zuma is a lame duck president and his administration is paralysed by a lack of leadership and clear policy direction."

She added that Mkhize provided only a few answers to the many questions raised after Zuma’s "reckless" announcement on December 16.

"South Africans have still not been told exactly how much money has been made available to give effect to the free fees proposal or where and when government will source this money in the fiscus. As a result, we remain in the dark as to how many students will qualify for free fee subsidies."

The DA is "deeply concerned" about Bongo's presence at the briefing, and Bozzoli described it as "nothing more than an act of intimidation which could only serve to further inflame the potentially violent crisis surrounding registration".

"Instead of Minister Bongo, it would have been more instructive and reassuring had the Minister of Finance been present – but he appears to be AWOL (absent without leave) on this particular matter," Bozzoli said.

Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who was also at the briefing, said Gigaba was part of the inter-ministerial committee, but that he couldn't attend the briefing. 

Bozzoli added that there was "no unity in message or policy direction on the higher education funding crisis in Zuma’s administration and the ANC". 

"Zuma’s populist excess has met his administration’s nationalist ineptitude. Every government department involved, from the Department of Higher Education and Training to National Treasury, is unable to give effect to Zuma’s ill-conceived and hasty announcement," she said.

Also read: Government mum on money for free higher education

Meanwhile, the EFF Students Command held a briefing shortly afterwards, in which members threatened to prevent any access to campuses if universities did not allow walk-in registrations.

Universities South Africa said earlier this week that walk-in registrations would not take place, after EFF leader Julius Malema encouraged all matriculants who performed well to go to their institution of choice to register.

The African Democratic Change (ADeC), the party formed by former ANC MP Makhosi Khoza, said in a statement that it welcomed the announcement on free higher education. 

"However, we call on the departments of Finance and Higher Education to speedily outline how free education will be implemented and how prospective students can make use of it going to registrations," national spokesperson Feziwe Ndwayana said in a statement. 

"As the African Democratic Change, we reject the call by the Economic Freedom Fighters that all matriculants that qualify for admission must go register at the university of their choice. This is a populist call by the EFF, it is misleading, reckless and does not consider the detriment such a call could lead to." 

"This call by the EFF is, however, understandable, given the fact that their identity was formed around removing one man from office. It is indeed desperate times for them. Young people must not take this call seriously and ignore the EFF." 

ADeC said it viewed free higher education as "but one way of fighting against the scourge of unemployment and it is one that is welcome".

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  eff  |  hlengiwe mkhize  |  jacob zuma  |  education

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