Jacob Zuma Ramatlhodi

President Jacob Zuma. (Gallo Images)

How will Zuma’s free education plan be funded?

Nobody knows…

Jacob Zuma Ramatlhodi

President Jacob Zuma. (Gallo Images)

President Jacob Zuma dropped a bombshell on Saturday, announcing free higher education for poor and working-class families.

It’s something that has been rumoured to be in the making for some time. In November, TimesLive reported that the plan was in the works which would mean budgets across departments are cut by R40 billion to make funding available for the 2018 academic year.

That was finally made public on Saturday – right before the ANC Elective Conference was due to kick off. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has already termed it “reckless politicking“.

The Heher Commission of inquiry into funding higher education found that South Africa could not afford free education right now.

The announcement seemingly came out of the blue and not even Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba seems to be aware of how it’s all going to work. Afterall, Treasury is already struggling to collect the money needed to make up the country’s budget.

So, where exactly is the money going to come from?

The short answer to that is that nobody knows.

Zuma’s announcement indicated that the first phase of this would happen in 2018, leaving precious little time to raise the capital needed to fund all of this.

Gigaba, who was hosting a breakfast head of the ANC Elective Conference, made no mention of it. Until later when he repeatedly told journalists he could not provide any information at this point on how this will be funded.

“We will provide the details at the budget in February 2018. We can’t provide any details at the present moment,” said Gigaba.

The Mail & Guardian previously reported that part of the funding for free education could see social grants cut, freezing the roll-out of RDP houses and increasing taxes. Right now, we don’t for sure, what we do know is that 2018 is increasingly shaping up to looking like a bumpy economic ride.