Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The reckless announcement by President Jacob Zuma at the ANC conference has put the cat among the pigeons at the Treasury, where an estimated R40bn a year will have to be found, and at the Department of Higher Education, where the practical means to roll out fee-free higher education to deserving matriculants whose households earn less than R350,000 a year has to be organised with the universities.

The EFF’s strident call for walk-in registrations for those able and available to take Zuma at his word is further complicating the matter.

There seems to be great confusion about the actual cost involved, given the limitations on spaces at universities, which were taken by surprise by the announcement. It flies in the face of the recommendations of the Heher commission. Belatedly, a five-year roll-out period has been mooted, surely a red rag to the red berets and to the #FeesMustFall movement.

The cupboard at the Treasury may be as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s, but the funding can be found elsewhere. The invalidation or cancellation of the arms deals could realise more than R70bn. Other questionable procurements by state-owned enterprises, particularly Eskom and Prasa, if set aside could bring in a similar sum.

If Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise to recover the proceeds of state capture is acted on swiftly, then more than R1bn is available, if not on the table then under mattresses in Dubai.

The Helen Suzman Foundation has launched judicial review proceedings against Eskom. In 2017, the Quaker Peace Centre impugned the acquisition of expensive and largely unused aircraft by Armscor from British Aerospace in a action in the High Court in Pretoria. Both matters are pending: negotiated swift and sensible settlements could realise the funding needed to make the constitutional educational imperative come true at last.

Disgruntled Fallists, whose walk-in registrations disappoint, should consider peacefully picketing Armscor, Eskom and Prasa.

Paul Hoffman
Director, Accountability Now