Zuma: Free education is possible

The president says free education is possible but it can’t happen overnight and requires enough funding.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has spoken about the possibility of free education, South Africa's economy and his reasons for not addressing students outside the Union Buildings last week.

In a rare interview with Bloomberg News, Zuma also called the students courageous.

On Friday, he gave into demands for a zero percent increase to university fees for 2016 in what has become known as the Fees Must Fall movement.

The president says free education is possible but it can't happen overnight and requires enough funding.

Zuma downplayed the poor performance of South Africa's economy with this message to foreign investors: "South Africa remains a destination for investment."

He says there was anxiety last Friday and has described the behaviour of students at the Union Buildings as "quite something" and a distraction from the real issues.

_WATCH: _The day fees 'fell'


As government works out how to make up the funding shortfall at South African universities, higher education minister Blade Nzimande told Members of Parliament the wealthy should be taxed to fund the sector.

Nzimande was speaking during a fiery Parliamentary debate on the crisis at universities on Tuesday.

He's come under fire from opposition politicians for being absent during the height of student protests and for not showing leadership.

Nzimande said government must have the political will to tax the rich to fund higher education.

"None of us must develop cold feet about the necessity of taxing the rich to fund our children."

He says details of how government will cover the funding shortfall created by the freeze on university fee increases for 2016 will be made known this week.