Is Fee-Free Education Feasible By The Time Institutions Of Higher Learning Open In February?

By Pinky Khoabane


President Jacob Zuma has just announced the introduction of free higher education for the poor and working class. The announcement goes against the retired Judge Jonathan Heher’s Commission that fee free education was not feasible but it comes as no surprise given recent media reports that a plan to introduce fee free education was in the pipeline. The details of how it will be funded, Treasury said would be revealed at the next Budget Speech.

There are of course many other questions that spring to mind. Will the tertiary institutions be ready to implement this decision by the time they open in February?

Technical & Legal Processes 

Although not au fait with the law and the technicalities that go with implementing policies, I would imagine that this decision would have to be ratified by Parliament as a law of this country or something formal would have to take place. If that is the case, and I hope some of our readers have more insight into this aspect, it would take a considerable amount of time to go through Parliament.

Parliament is in recess unless of course, members of parliament (MPs) are called back to address the matter urgently.

What are the implications of this announcement then on students when they arrive at university in February? They have all the documentation to prove they qualify and does the institution allow them to study until the law comes into effect if at all that is the requirement? Will they be asked to pay and be later reimbursed when the law comes into effect, if at all the issue requires a law to be passed?

What if the incoming president is Cyril Ramaphosa? 

The nature of slate politics after all is such that the incoming president comes with a set of his comrades to the National Executive Committee (NEC) who might decide the time was up for the outgoing president of the ANC, who remains the president of the country for the next two years. The ANC needs to align it’s national elective conference with that of elections of the Republic. When a new ANC president is chosen, there are two years left for the former ANC president in government which can render him/her a lame duck president –  (an issue for another time).

It’s no secret that the majority of the people now behind Ramaphosa are either backers of former President Thabo Mbeki – who was defeated by Zuma at Polokwane – and former friends who had a fall-out with Zuma. The recall of Zuma would be sweet revenge. And the litany of cases against the president are enough grounds to recall him.

The bigger question really is whether decisions by President Jacob Zuma as president of the country will be binding on the next administration if he were to be recalled?

A recall could see a cabinet reshuffle

I may be getting ahead of myself right now but I distinctly recall many social media posts by CR17 supporters saying by January Zuma will be gone. Derek Hanekom, I recall on Twitter saying something to the effect that the greatest cabinet reshuffler will be reshuffled in January.

If a cabinet reshuffle happens, I’d imagine Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s job to be on the line, in which case former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan could return in that portfolio and would he really find the money to pay for fee free education? But who knows, for the sake of “unity” Gigaba could stay.


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