The Economic Freedom Fighters “Student Command” (EFFSC) on Sunday said it would not be part of a nationwide strike led by the SA Union of Students (SAUS) to shut down institutions of higher learning over 2017 tuition fee increments.
The planned shutdown follows a presentation by the National Treasury at the public hearings of the judicial commission of inquiry into higher education fees in Pretoria on Friday, at which Treasury painted a bleak picture of budget shortfalls for higher education funding. There was no money to cushion another no fee increment at universities, the commission heard.
The EFF said the commission, chaired by Judge Jonathan Arthur Heher, “shifted goal posts by changing its terms of reference” from looking for means towards the inception of free education to being a commission to “investigate the feasibility of free education”.
“The new terms of reference are an insult to all students of this country and we shall not dignify it with our presence and participation. Accordingly, the EFFSC has distanced itself from this commission,” the organisation said.
“The EFFSC, again, vehemently distances itself from this nationwide student strike which is scheduled to start tomorrow morning [Monday]. Following this statement, we will issue a directive to all our branches in both universities and TVET [technical vocational education and training colleges] making it clear that no EFFSC activist should form part of any mass action that is organised by SAUS and its PYA [Progressive Youth Alliance] collaborators.”
On Friday, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande cancelled a media briefing at which he was scheduled to announce whether tuition fees would increase or not for next year. Nzimande’s office said he needed to consult further before making any announcement as student groups awaited his announcement and dared him to mention fee increase for 2017. The minister had on Thursday received a report on tuition fees from the Council on Higher Education.
The EFFSC and the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA) withdrew their participation at the commission last week, with PASMA labelling the commission “toothless” after the commission conceded that it had no powers to effect a no-fee increment for next year. Universities have indicated that they suffered heavy financial losses following the implementation of no fee increases last year. Most institutions said they relied on tuition fees to sustain themselves and pointed out that student debt had risen sharply since the advent of the “FeesMustFall” campaign by students nationwide about two years ago.
The SAUS, a federation of student representative councils from 26 higher education institutions, was adamant that it would not rest until there was free higher education for all in South Africa.
– African News Agency (ANA)