Opposition blames university crisis on Blade


The Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have accused Higher Education Minister. Blade Nzimande, of failing to the address the funding crisis at a number of state-owned universities.

On Monday, students from the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University in Grahamstown and Wits embarked on a protest action against proposed tuition fee increases for 2016.

Activities at all three institutions were later suspended with police forced to used rubber bullets after Rhodes students, tried to leave the university ground in an attempt to join a similar action at the private Eastern Cape Midlands College.

Management at Wits confirmed late yesterday afternoon that lectures for Tuesday had also been suspended, not long after off-campus students overturned a bakkie and even reportadley threw stones at passing vehicles along Empire Road.

Nzimande is expected to meet with under fire Wits Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib and UCT VC Max Price in Cape Town later today, after addressing the matter at a hurriedly convened press conference yesterday.

Speaking in a statement, DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education, Belinda Bozzoli, said the Department under Nzimande has done little to address the ongoing problems of funding at state universities, despite previous warnings from VC’s, the Auditor-General and students.

“The Minister needs to stop deferring blame for the problem to Universities and their Vice-Chancellors when he knows perfectly well that they are increasingly struggling to operate without sufficient funding,” Bozzoli said.

“NSFAS have acknowledged that they are only able to fund roughly half of the young people who qualify for their grants, and would need a further R51-billion to be able to fund all those who qualify”.

She also added that expenditure on higher education in South Africa amounted to only 12% versus 20% in the rest of Africa, and that funding has continued to decrease while student numbers have done the opposite.

“The Minister should be appealing to the Treasury to urge that the funding crisis is set as a top priority. This will be the only way that this this crisis will be solved, once and for all”.

In a similar reaction, EFF National Spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been the main “stumbling block in the attainment of a fee free university”.

“It has only satisfied itself with the provision of the loan scheme, NFSAS which is always never enough, instead of conceiving a radical transformation of the higher education fee structure,” he said.

Taking a swipe at Nzimande, Ndlozi said, “He is held up in luxurious hotel meetings drinking expensive wine, whilst the black child suffers with their future hanging on the string due to expensive university fees. All Nzimande knows is political gossip and ideological buzzwords used to fight ANC internal factions”.

He also added that the party expects a comprehensive strategy in dealing with the problem when Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene tables his Medium Term Budget on Wednesday.