By Yaseen Kippie
President Jacob Zuma’s announcement of free higher education for poor and working class students on Saturday has political and governance implications, according to Stellenbosch University Professor Erwin Schwella.
“The political dimension is Zuma giving impetus to his slate of candidates. Essentially, its to influence the election. On the governance side, its different. Whenever something is given for free, someone pays for it. It’s either the users or the taxpayers. In this case, its the taxpayers who will pay.”
Shwella also pointed out that “Zuma would like to at least attempt to leave a legacy which is somewhat positive.,” although it would hardly do so as Zuma’s long hall in politics and governance has been close to disastrous.
UCT student Rob Duigan says the political timing of the decision shows Zuma is pressured. “When he had a stronger hold of the ANC, he had a very derisive and dismissive attitude towards the student uprising. In most of his time in office, he has had little incilantion towards any major reform, only when he has his political credibility questioned, does he move to actually invoke policies. This is a self serving move.”
Despite Duigans reservations of Zuma, he feels it is still a good policy.
Lecturer at the University of the Western Cape Keith Gotschalk says it is good news but it will require a lot from South Africans.
“Taxes will go up by half of one percent or more. There are countries wealthier than South Africa which do provide free university education. It will be more difficult for us to manage.”