Student union threatens year-long shutdown over free higher education

The University of Cape Town's upper campus. (iStock)
The University of Cape Town's upper campus. (iStock)

Johannesburg - Students are prepared to go on a year-long holiday should President Jacob Zuma not institute free education from next year, South African Union of Students president (SAUS) Avela Mjajubana told News24 on Sunday.

The commission of inquiry into the feasibility of funding free higher education chaired by Judge Jonathan Heher from the Supreme Court of Appeal was given eight months to conduct its investigation into free education in January.

It was expected to submit its final report to Zuma no later than two months after completing its work.

Mjajubana was speaking after a two-day SAUS national executive committee meeting. 

"We are prepared to go on holiday if they do not implement free education in 2017."

Mjajubana said they are not going to engage in any talks with the commission that do not start with free education.

"We came to an agreement on free education with the president, but this commission is looking at feasibility. This isn't what we want. There will be no talking. We want action," he said.

Mjajubana said any institution of higher learning that entertains talks of a fee increase "will be closed."

#FeesMustFall

"Students are under pressure. Many students are still struggling with the no fee increase because so many of them still can't afford the current fee structure. We are saying we want the commission to hand over its report to the president now as per his instruction," he said.

Mjajubana said the union was now dealing with strategies and plans for next year, and added that it would start mobilising after the local government elections.

"We know the nature of these university councils. They like to impose their views on students. If the impose a fee increase, we will shut down every university," he said.

#FeesMustFall is a student-led protest movement that began in mid-October 2015 in response to a proposed increase in fees at South African universities.

Protests started at Wits University and spread to the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University, and then to other institutions across the country.

President Jacob Zuma eventually announced that there would be no fee increases in 2016.

The Department of Higher Education has estimated the cost of damage to property during protests at universities nationwide had increased by more than R100m, putting the overall cost since October 2015 at R459m.

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