Zuma’s sinister reasons for announcing free higher education

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JULY 05: President Jacob Zuma addresses delegates during the African National Congress (ANC) 5th national policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on July 05, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. 3500 delegates from branches across the country gathered for the conference to discuss the party’s policies going into the elective conference in December, where changes and new policies will be ratified. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma’s decision to announce free higher education on the eve of the ANC’s national conference was a conniving, sinister move to make sure his preferred candidate has a popular platform to campaign the 2019 elections from, analysts say.

“It is a divide and rule strategy, and he’s planting it within the context of the conference. He is making it unequivocal that a vote for Cyril Ramaphosa is a vote against free education,” says Ralph Mathekga, independent analyst.

“Zuma is using the conference as a referendum on free education and is laying the groundwork for 2019. Remember, the ANC thrives once society is divided along economic lines. If Ramaphosa wins, he will find it difficult to reverse this policy, it will destroy him if he tries to reverse it. This is how Zuma ensures his legacy of radical economic transformation lives on.

“It’s sinister, but it will work. Particularly if they push it to 2019. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has been standing in front of supporters saying, ‘we need free education’. It found fertile ground.”

Political analyst, Mpumelelo Mkhabela, says the conference was the perfect opportunity to discuss the Heher commission report on free higher education to get the party’s input, but instead, Zuma decided to pre-empt the conference, taking all the glory of the decision for himself.

“He is being populist, trying to carry favour and win hearts and minds, because technically it’s the last policy announcement he is making as president of the ANC. It’s such an emotional issues for students and for the country, and he wants to take the glory for the decision.

“It also means there is no room for the new president to give a different take on higher education. If the new president reverses the decision, Zuma will look good. That’s how populist it is.”

(Photo credit: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)