EFF commander-in-chief, Julius Malema. Picture: Sunday Times
EFF commander-in-chief, Julius Malema. Picture: Sunday Times

EFF leader Julius Malema says he is planning to stage a walk-in to register for his MA degree at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits)‚ in support of his party’s controversial call for potential applicants who now qualify for free education to go to universities to apply in person.

Malema was speaking on Energy FM in Polokwane‚ on Monday morning.

"Our children are hungry for education. We must celebrate that. This is the year of educating the African child. I’m going to walk in at Wits and register for my Masters‚" Malema said.

Most mainstream universities are asking students to register online to allow them to cope with the huge demand for places.

Last week, Higher Education Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize cautioned that only prospective students who were eligible and who had been offered a place to study at a tertiary institution would be considered for the fully subsidised education for children of the bottom 90% of households, announced by President Jacob Zuma in December.

The minister also highlighted that the government’s new higher education funding policy was to be phased in over a five-year period for eligible poor and working class students in a fiscally sustainable manner.

In defence of his party’s call for walk-ins at universities‚ Malema said there are students who did not apply beforehand because they had no hope of affording higher education‚ therefore "those people must also be given a chance".

The party’s "action plan" comes after a free education announcement for first year students by President Jacob Zuma starting from January 2018.

"We are becoming an irresponsible country. How do we call people who are telling people to go to school ‘irresponsible’? We are playing in the hands and minds of the white minority. They should have thought of the issue of infrastructure problem before announcing free education. In fact an issue of infrastructure is a nice problem. We would rather have to work around infrastructure than youth not getting education‚" Malema said.

He said the South African Council of Churches (SACC) endorsed the EFF’s position.

"We are going to engage the government‚ we had a meeting with SACC yesterday and they also support the motion that children who qualify should not be turned away‚" Malema said.

He singled out the University of Pretoria‚ saying that as one of the country’s richest institutions‚ it should make space for students. "They own land and even rent it out. They must now go and tell their tenants to leave so that students can have space. They must empty their reserves and develop the university‚" he said.