Jacob Zuma

Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance has noted with disappointment the Jacob G Zuma Foundation’s inability to pay the 2016 fees of at least 30 university students.

"It is ironic that on the eve of the release of the president’s commission of inquiry into fee-free higher education the charitable foundation which bears his name finds itself unable to keep its promises to students," DA spokeswoman Belinda Bozzoli said on Sunday.

A number of students from poor backgrounds, particularly those at the University of Zululand, had been left high and dry by the foundation which had either run out of funds or had exercised poor planning of its financial affairs, she said.

Either way, this was a scandal as the futures of many students now hung in the balance. The DA called on President Jacob Zuma to urgently review the impact of the foundation’s failure to pay the tuition fees of those students who were already awarded bursaries.

The lack of access to higher education was among the causes of unemployment in South Africa and the foundation’s failed bursary scheme put even more students in a difficult position. It was bad enough that thousands of students from impoverished homes had to protest to secure financial support from the state. 

"The foundation added further insult to injury by offering support to students only to withdraw it because of its own 'financial difficulties'. The move was irresponsible and cruel to the affected students," Bozzoli said.

It was also outrageous that the foundation had put pressure on universities to pick up the slack when those very institutions were in financial difficulties themselves. The foundation had also tried to palm its bursary holders off on the already-strained National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to “alleviate the financial burden”.

Raising private money and spending it wisely were matters that required care and responsibility. The issue of access to higher education was one that was intrinsically linked to one's ability to access the job market. This could not be used as a political football or a failed legacy project for the president.

If Zuma truly cared about the work that this foundation was established to do he should make a personal commitment to ensure that those who had been promised bursaries would not be left in the lurch, Bozzoli said.
African News  Agency