Addressing Walter Sisulu University students in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape about his views on the need for free education, former president Jacob Zuma expressed his belief that mines, banks and monopoly industries should be nationalised.
Addressing a packed house, the former president slammed “institutionalised racism” as the cause of the current “challenges in education” that South Africa is facing.
He also restated his support for free education and highlighted his role in establishing the Heher commission to look into the feasibility of free higher education.
“To me it was important to establish this as policy,” he said.
Zuma acknowledged problems with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
“The NSFAS played its role and kept on increasing each year during the past two administrations. However, it had its problems,” he said.
“Students complained that NSFAS would only provide funding for one year. We kept increasing it, but the problem remained the same,” he continued.
While some have supported Zuma’s decision on free education, others have pointed out that he only made the call in 2017 after the #FeesMustFall movement had been ground to a halt, mostly by government itself.
This has led to suggestions that he made the call knowing he would not be president for much longer and the difficult responsibility to implement it would fall on his successor.
Zuma also said black South Africans needed to do more to get back the land.
“The reason why we, the blacks, are poor is because of the land that was taken from us. We have got to argue for the land properly. Not like how we are arguing about it,” he said.
Zuma’s calls for nationalisation may come as a surprise, as he made no such calls during his nearly two terms in office.
“Nationalisation is not the ANC or government policy. Our policy is a mixed economy,” Zuma told an audience of businesspeople and diplomats in 2012 when asked to clarify his party’s policy.
“There are no mixed signals. Nationalisation is not our policy. It is very clear,” he emphasised at the time.
The massive turnout the address received also highlighted the former president’s continued popularity.