Carol Paton Writer at Large

President Jacob Zuma played his opening gambit at Nasrec early on Saturday, announcing free higher education for poor and working-class students. What he did not tell SA, or the ANC delegates at whom the announcement was mostly aimed, is that he will have to raise taxes to pay for it. Put in this way — as a trade-off with paying more for consumer goods through, for instance, a higher VAT rate — delegates might not have been so eager. If it was not already evident, the free education gambit was announced on Saturday for a key reason: so that Zuma can deliver the radical economic transformation he has been talking about. Students are not agitating for free education right now, and have not done so with any vigour since 2015, so this is much more about Zuma and Nasrec than it is about students and education. Zuma also had a 750-page comprehensive report, which he himself commissioned, on which he could draw to find a sustainable funding plan for higher education. He ignored this as wel...

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