HIGHER Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande says the burden of student debt could lead to another economic meltdown, similar to the American sub-prime rate crisis of 2008.
Nzimande, addressing delegates at the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) congress, said student debt had become a global problem, and “it’s even worse in the United States”.
Earlier this week, Nzimande announced that university fee increases would be capped at 8 percent for next year.
He said the ANC government understood the legitimate demands of students.
“A lot is being done by our department. In 2009, 9.1 percent of all people over the age of 20 had a tertiary education; in 2015, that had reached 14.3%,” said Nzimande.
This was evidence that the amount of money invested in higher education was starting to bear fruit, according to Nzimande.
He said South Africa found itself in an international environment which was not “very favourable” to its agenda.
“We’ve got persistent structural unemployment, and what this is doing is that more and more South Africans rely on government’s redistributive measures; whether it be housing, municipal services or social grants. As a country, we are unable to cope with these demands, and these high levels of dependency on the state.”
Added to this was high migration from impoverished rural areas into larger metropolitan areas.
“Because of high levels of poverty, if you are an ANC cadre, and you are elected as a councillor it becomes a means of livelihood rather than a means of helping to provide services for the people,” said Nzimande.
He said this had formed the basis for fights among ANC members, including deadly shootings during the election campaign.
Nzimande said fights within the ANC over the spoils that came with political office often impacted on the ability to execute service delivery. He called this “a big challenge”.
Services which could, and should, be provided by local municipalities were often handed over to tenderpreneurs, even though these were in most instances not necessary, he said.
“Why should school feeding be a tender instead of being given to those mothers and fathers who are able to cook, and are able to supply food?” Nzimande said to cheers from delegates.
He said South Africa could not afford for the ANC to lose power in the 2019 general elections.
If the ANC continued on its current trajectory, with slate politics, those who win the party’s 2017 conference will walk away “with a shadow of an organisation”.