UJ students during their #FeesMustFall protest in Johannesburg. Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/SOWETAN
UJ students during their #FeesMustFall protest in Johannesburg. Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/SOWETAN

President Jacob Zuma has not received the eagerly awaited fees commission report, which has missed its submission deadline to the Presidency by nearly two months.

Presidency spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga confirmed on Monday that the commission’s report had not yet landed on Zuma’s desk.

"The Presidency has not yet received the final report. It is up to the commission to do the handover and they will decide when that is," Ngqulunga said.

Students, who are preparing for third-term exams, expect the final report in two weeks.

Thabo Moloja, president of the South African Students Congress, which is aligned to the ANC, said the organisation accepted that the report was late, but expected it to be made public at the end of August.

"The ANC pronounced in its policy conference and lekgotla that [it is] … going to implement free education from 2018 and we expect nothing less than that," Moloja said.

The commission, chaired by retired Judge Jonathan Arthur Heher, began its work in 2016 and was due to hand over a final report to the Presidency at the end of July after hearings were completed in April.

With an allocated budget of R40m, the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training — also referred to as the fees commission — was set up by the Presidency to establish the financial state of higher education and draw up a road map that would answer the call of students for free higher education that emanated from the #FeesMustFall protests of 2015 and 2016.

The commission received more than 200 written submissions and 120 expert witnesses testified.

Commission spokesman Musa Ndwandwe said on Monday the commission was unable to reveal to the media whether or not the Presidency had the report because its mandate did not extend beyond compiling the report.

"Officially, we cannot divulge whether the Presidency has the report or not," Ndwandwe said.

"But we have stuck with the prescribed timelines."

It was the president’s prerogative to decide whether or not to make the report’s findings public, he said.

The dominant view emerging in the proceedings among stakeholders was that higher education was unaffordable and universities relied heavily on fee increases because the government’s contribution had declined in real terms over the years, said Ndwandwe.

Because the commission was appointed by the president, there was an incorrect perception that it was yet another "ploy" by Zuma to frustrate students’ demands for the immediate implementation of free higher education, he said.

gumedem@businesslive.co.za

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