Fees Commission urged to summon Gordhan to make submissions

Professor Malegapuru Makgoba its time that government lives up to its promises on free education.

FILE: Finance Minster Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - National Planning Commission deputy chairperson Malegapuru Makgoba has urged the Fees Commission to summon Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to make submissions and explain how government can address the funding shortfall for universities.

Makgoba made a submission at the commission of inquiry in Pretoria yesterday. It's investigating the feasibility of free tertiary education.

He says government needs to further prioritise education.

"I trust Pravin Gordhan very much to know that he wouldn't say what he said very lightly. I think he said it in August and said if you cut corruption by 25%, you will have R40 billion."

Meanwhile, Makgoba said good leadership is needed for the implementation of free education and its time that government lives up to its promises.

Professor Makgoba said the country has been unable to provide free education because it's been spending money on what he calls "naughty things".

He made reference to the multimillion rand arms deal, questioning how government can buy frigates in a country in need of education.

Makgoba said the Freedom Charter, the Constitution and election manifestos all speak of free education and he says it's now time to deliver.

"Now the kids are saying 'let's have it' and you're saying 'we're still going to think about it.'"

The professor said all government needs to do is to back up the vision for free education with resources and change the budget process to reflect that education is priority.

Makgoba has also told the fees commission not to create an impression that government cannot afford to fund free education, saying not only can it afford free education for the poor, but for the rich as well.

President Jacob Zuma, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and the African National Congress believe free education should only be for the poor.

But Professor Makgoba disagrees.

"All I know is that our country has enough money to provide tertiary education for all. We must not fool ourselves that there is no money."

He said government and the commission must not make the issue of free education complex when it's simple.

"Let's not create the impression that this is impossible or it's so difficult."

He's told the commission, government has the cash to fund free education for all but the money is not being prioritised properly, with most of it lost to corruption.