Another wave of #FeesMustFall protests could hit South African public universities from early next year, as student formations are rejecting the recommendations of the Heher Commission and demanding the implementation of free tertiary education.
The SA Students Congress (Sasco), the country’s biggest student organisation, has threatened to disrupt the start of the 2018 academic year at universities across the country if free education is not realised.
Sasco secretary-general Tembani Makata said the organisation wanted free education to be implemented, saying the ANC had already adopted a resolution on this.
To force the government's hand, Sasco has issued an instruction to all its structures that “the 2018 academic year must not commence unless there is free education”, she said.
The finer details of this protest action would be worked out at Sasco’s national congress to be held during the second week of December.
However, Makata said the anticipated action would include ensuring that no registration of both new and returning students happened at all campuses.
“Every year we are given false hope that there is going to be free education, and then it gets postponed. Now they must make sure that they work hard to get that money to fund free education,” Makata said yesterday.
Sasco is proposing that there should be a corporate tax imposed on the private sector to fund free education. The organisation is rejecting many of the proposals contained in the report by the fee commission tasked with investigating the feasibility of free tertiary education.
“What this report has done is actually to take us steps back. The commission was infested with unnecessary delays and used as a cash cow for the commissioners,” Sasco charged.
Sasco rejected the main proposal that income-contingent loans should be extended to students, saying this sentenced students to a life of debt and that it would only benefit commercial banks.
Universities South Africa (Usaf), the umbrella organisation of all public universities, said it was concerned that the report had been released without any government commentary about what was likely to become policy.
“So, at the moment the report is no more than a set of recommendations to the Presidency. We will engage with activists and student bodies that we should see this report as a start of the process, rather than the end,” said Professor Ahmed Bawa, the Usaf's chief executive.
Commenting on whether there were contingency plans in place should there be protests, Bawa said as long as protests were not disruptive and violent they would be supported by universities.
Bawa said the body was still hoping to engage the government on fee increases for next year, saying to operate universities required an inflation-linked increase in income.
Alan Khan, the spokesperson for the Durban University of Technology, said the situation at the institution was “safe and peaceful and there is no need for an increased security or police presence”.