EFF MP Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi File picture: Thobile Mathonsi/ANA

Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki failed to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to fund higher education during their tenures as president.

So said EFF national spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi when he addressed EFF Student Command members at Wits University ahead of the SRC elections.

Ndlozi’s comments came after the Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, in her campaign to become the next ANC president, told University of Johannesburg (UJ) students last week that free education would be possible during her reign. Sisulu said such education would be funded through foreign direct investment, the government and the private sector.

Sisulu said that the funding model was recommended by the Judge Joos Hefer commission of inquiry into Higher Education and Training.

But Ndlozi disagrees. According to him, South Africa under the “much loved and revered Nelson Mandela, as well as the educated Thabo Mbeki”, failed to attract foreign direct investment in the country to fund higher education.

He said opportunities for FDI under President Jacob Zuma were slim.

Ndlozi said the troubles in higher education began during the tenure of Mandela in 1996 when the government “reduced funding for universities” in the country.

“The ANC government in 1996 brought in neo-liberal policy by reducing funding for higher education. This forced universities to introduce market-like policies and to make a profit to survive.

“It is the government that must give free education. You must take your struggles for free decolonised education to the government,” Ndlozi said.

He was adamant that it would be impossible for the country to attract enough FDI to fund higher education in the country.

“I know you love Nelson Mandela. May his soul rest in peace. But under his tenure there was no foreign direct investment. It was the same during the tenure of Thabo Mbeki,” he said.

Ndlozi encouraged EFF members to prioritise the attainment of postgraduate qualifications, saying there were no job opportunities for people with junior degrees in the country.

“You must write theses and dissertations. In so doing, you are creating knowledge in the country,” Ndlozi, a Wits PhD graduate, told his supporters.

Thabo Mbeki Foundation head of communications Thami Ntenteni said: “Mbuyiseni Ndlozi has every right to express an opinion but that does not necessarily make it correct.

At the time Thabo Mbeki left office the country was at a higher growth level than it is now.” During Mbeki’s era the budget was allocated in accordance with available needs and at the time there was a critical need to fund the health sector.

Luzuko Koti, director of communications of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said they did not comment on statements made at events they did not attend or have the context to refer to.

The Star