By Aviwe Mtila
After years of deliberations, raging student protests and promises, the South African government has allocated an additional R57 billion towards free-fee higher education and training.
The country’s Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, made this announcement on Wednesday in his maiden budget speech, tabled in parliament. When probed about this announcement in an embargoed media briefing hours before his official speech, Gigaba stood firm by it, saying it is a resolution that was adopted a while back.
“South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress, agreed on it during tits policy conference last year, and again during its elective conference. The then President, Jacob Zuma, announced free-fee higher education in December. It was reaffirmed during the January 8Th statement and again during the State of the Nation Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa,” says Gigaba.
In the State of the Nation Address, incoming President, Ramaphosa, clarified that free-fee higher education would be completely phased in over the next 5 year, with 2018’s qualifying first years being the first beneficiaries of it.
During the media briefing, Gigaba also confidently reassured South Africans that the government won’t be procuring nuclear anytime soon.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we can’t afford nuclear. Yes it is part of the energy mix, but should we need to procure other forms of energy, we will first look at the cheaper alternatives and nuclear will probably be last,” says a confident Gigaba, knowing he has the backing of South Africa’s president.
The Finance Minister’s credibility also came into question, after findings in court that he had lied under oath in relation to the court case involving the Oppenheimers and Guptas in O.R Tambo International Airport.
Gigaba fiercely defended himself, cautioning that the matter is still in court.
“I have appealed this, but a lot has to be asked about this. For example, how can a pilot, steering the aircraft with two noisy engines running at the front, give testimony that he overheard a conversation from the back of the aircraft which was supposedly pertaining to instructions to be given to a minister?” he asked.
While the Finaince Minister acknowledged that a lot would be said in what he terms “the court of public opinion,” he further noted that “facts and the truth” would prevail.