File Photo: Former president Jacob Zuma with SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande dance at the Botshabelo Stadium. Photo: GCIS
File Photo: Former president Jacob Zuma with SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande dance at the Botshabelo Stadium. Photo: GCIS

WATCH: Zuma hits back at Blade Nzimande over free education remarks

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Mar 12, 2021

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Johannesburg - Former president Jacob Zuma has hit back at Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande over remarks that the former statesman was to blame for the funding shortfalls for the NSFAS.

In December 2017, on the eve of the ANC’s Elective Conference in Nasrec, Zuma announced that the government would be implementing free higher education from the following year.

This week, hundreds of students took to the streets at Wits University, protesting against financial exclusions at the institution. Wits protests quickly spread to the University of Pretoria, UCT and the University of Free State.

Also this week, NSFAS received a R6 billion injection to fund students for the financial year after the Budget Speech had announced a substantial cut for the year.

In Nzimande’s perceived dig at Zuma, this week he told Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) that Zuma’s action to announce free education had undermined the work of the Heher Commission, which was appointed to find funding solutions for fee-free education.

He said this led to the poor performance of NSFAS and a subsequent audit disclaimer outcome from the Office of the Auditor-General.

“That announcement to say we are moving to a new scheme 14 days before it had to be implemented messed NSFAS up big time, it exposed the extent to which NSFAS didn’t have a system.

“It increased the number of NSFAS beneficiaries and what was worse with that decision, it ignored the work that was done by the Heher Commission and the transitional measures.

“That’s why we have agreed with the Treasury now that it will go back to the Heher Commission,” said Nzimande this week.

On Friday, in a video leaked from Zuma’s engagement with the ANC Women’s League in KZN at his Nkandla household, Zuma fired back at Nzimande, saying his announcement was in line with policy decisions of the party and the Freedom Charter.

“Please send a message to Nzimande for me not to do what he is doing because it looks like he wants us to spar publicly. I thought he is a disciplined member of the ANC.

“The policy of the Freedom Charter says there must be free education.

“Where does he get the guts to contradict policies of the ANC and say when we implement these policies which we agreed upon at the conference and it is worse, please tell him, because he is a general secretary of the SACP, a party that fights for socialism and he is obstructing that.

“I don’t want to speak too much about him. Please remind him to do his job and leave me alone. I am an ANC member, and I will die an ANC member,” said Zuma.

On the death of Mthokozisi Ntumba, the 35-year-old man who was shot dead by a police rubber bullet after leaving a clinic in Braamfontein, Zuma said the man’s death was inexcusable.

“It is not a small feat for students to fight for education and they get shot dead. How will we explain this to the masses?

“How do you explain that to us? As the ANC government, we shoot young people because they are saying we must implement a policy of the ANC and we shoot that young person and they die,” said Zuma.

Zuma told the ANCWL KZN members that he had been quiet on many occasions when Nzimande appeared to be sparring with him publicly. He said sarcastically that Nzimande must leave him alone, and he “must be this clever Blade that we know”.

“He has been provoking me for a long time, and I have not said anything out of respect. I don’t want it to get to a point where I no longer respect him and I tell him who he truly is, because maybe he is provoking me to say it.

“He must be this clever Blade that we all know, he must not wish disappointment upon himself, please tell him that I said he must stop messing around,” said Zuma.

In an ANCWL KZN statement released earlier this week, the body said the purpose of their meeting with the former president was to “consolidate the unity within the party and to close existing gaps between the ANC and its former leaders”.

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