Just over a month before his ousting in February 2018, president Jacob Zuma handed SA a hot potato. In the middle of the ANC’s elective national conference, Zuma, then outgoing ANC president, announced that all poor students would be entitled to fee-free higher education with effect from 2018.

The announcement has become one of the most enduring strands of his mostly negative legacy. Its chaotic, rushed introduction, including lack of a clear plan on how it was to be funded, did not stop tens of thousands of deserving students from accessing post-school education...

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