Carol Paton Writer at Large

President Jacob Zuma blindsided the Treasury, his Cabinet colleagues and the ANC’s own committee on education when he announced free higher education for poor and working-class families on Saturday morning. In the past week, Zuma had been explicitly advised by Treasury officials that the plan was not affordable in the context of the government’s constrained finances, which will already include large spending cuts and tax increases in February's budget. The Treasury had also tried hard to persuade him to delay any announcement until the budget. The Treasury and the Department of Higher Education and Training have been in intense negotiations over the issue. At the end of last week, officials believed that they had persuaded Zuma to delay any announcement. But he took them by surprise by posting a statement on the Presidency website early on Saturday. This was followed by a press release to all media. The Treasury is enormously anxious over the plan, which initial estimates have found...

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