Chairperson of ANC's subcommittee on education and health, Naledi Pandor (left), and deputy basic education minister Enver Surty brief the media. Photo: Jonisayi Maromo / ANA

Johannesburg - The African National Congress resolved at its 54th national elective conference in Johannesburg to support the implementation of free higher education as announced by President Jacob Zuma last week.

"There was a very, very strong call that government must act speedily to implement free higher education for young people from poor and working class backgrounds, and also to support families in the middle strata who are unable to meet the full costs of higher education," chairperson of ANC's subcommittee on education and health, Naledi Pandor, said while addressing journalists at the conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

"Conference said this is something that they would want to see government implementing from 2018, and they welcome the announcement that has been made by President [Jacob] Zuma with respect to responses to the Heher Commission [which probed the feasibility of fee free higher education in South Africa]."

Journalists however asked Pandor several questions regarding the financial feasibility of the fee-free education, especially at a time the South African government is experiencing several problems.

Chairperson of ANC's subcommittee on education and health Naledi Pandor with subcommittee member Enver Surty addressing journalists at the elective conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Pandor said there was no discussion on the "operationalising" of Zuma's announcement "because we had assurance from Minister Gigaba [Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba] that they would be a focus on this in the budget speech that will be made in February".

With respect to interaction with the institutions of higher education, Pandor said it was resolved that through the new national executive committee of the ANC, an urgent summit will be convened to iron out the financial matters.

Quizzed further to concede that Zuma did not consult when he announced the fee-free higher education, Pandor retorted: "How would I make such an admission when it wasn't me that made the announcement?"

Last weekend, National Treasury said it had "noted" the announcement by the Presidency on free higher education, and was in the process of reviewing the details of the higher education proposals, as well as possible financing options.

Chairperson of ANC's subcommittee on education and health Naledi Pandor with subcommittee member Enver Surty addressing journalists at the elective conference.

Zuma announced that government would extend fully subsidised free higher education to “poor and working class” youth from 2018.

Government would increase subsidies to universities from 0.68 percent to one percent of GDP over the next five years as recommended by the Heher Commission of Inquiry into higher education and training, the Presidency said.

African News Agency/ANA