ANCYL president Collen Main File picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/ANA

Johannesburg - ANC Youth League president Collen Maine has warned the party’s incoming president that a reversal of outgoing president Jacob Zuma’s decision on tertiary education “would be harshly dealt with”.

In a surprise announcement as before the start of the conference on Saturday, Zuma’s office sent out a statement that there would be no fee increase for students from households earning up to R600 000 annually.

Students coming from households that earned less than R350 000 a year would be exempt from paying fees at public universities.

Speaking to IOL on the sidelines of the ANC conference, Maine said government would have to go all the way out to raise funds for free education. He was reacting to Zuma announcing that as from next year over 90% students from poor families would enjoy free education.

Read: Poor, working class students to get free higher education, says Zuma

“Anybody who reverse the announcement, young people are going to rise against him,” he said.

Maine said Zuma had held discussions with Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba about funding for the free education.

“The president cannot make that kind of pronouncement without talking to the treasurer. The president knows what he said to the minister of finance.

“When the budget is announced next year, we will be told where the money is coming from, but we don’t care where the money is coming from,” he said. 

Former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who is being supported by Maine and Zuma to be the next ANC and country’s president, had already indicated that she supports the implementation of free education.

However, Maine said that “white monopoly capital agents”, apparently referring to ANC deputy president and presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa, have bent their backs to block free education in order to protect their financial interests.    

Video: Bongani Hans/IOL

“President Jacob Zuma wanted to make this announcement, but there are people in the ANC who represent white monopoly capital who have always wanted to block him.

“This agency of the white monopoly capital knew that they were no longer going to go the banks as Edu-Loan is going to suffer as it might have to close business,” he said.

He said the ANCYL met on Friday night to plan how it was going to push during commissions for the implementation of free education, but was surprised in the morning when Zuma made the announcement and “we are very happy that the president is implementing it”.

There had been suggestions that Zuma had made the announcement on the day of the conference as part of campaigning for Dlamini Zuma, but Maine denied this saying that the president was free to take decision at any time.

“Just like he is free to reshuffle the cabinet at midnight,” he said.

He said Zuma had responded to ANCYL’s pressure that such an announcement should be made.

“The timing is quite perfect as next month people are going back to school. “Others were saying that the announcement should be made during the State Of The Nation Address (Sona), but Sona is too far as people should enjoy Christmas knowing that the future looks very bright,” he said.