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Zuma's free education announcement a populist move - economist

Economists say that President Zuma's decision is simply unaffordable and will inevitably take funding away from other policies.

President Jacob Zuma addresses delegates at the ANC's 54th national conference on 16 December 2017. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Questions have been asked about the timing of President Jacob Zuma's announcement on free education for poor and working class students, with some accusing him of strategically attempting to swing African National Congress (ANC) votes in favour of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Economists say that Zuma's decision is simply unaffordable and will inevitably take funding away from other policies.

Economist Dawie Roodt says that Zuma's decision is a populist move.

"Strangely, I think the president has thrown whoever is going to take over from him under the bus, because this is unaffordable and it's just about impossible to reverse a decision like this."

Economist Thabi Leoka says that the decision is a surprising one.

"It came as a surpise, not only to the public, but to certain ministers as well, who will be affected by this free education and it does speak to whether there was sufficient consultation in government about this."

National Treasury says it is reviewing the details of the higher education proposals as well as possible financial options after the Presidency announced that the government will increase funding to support free higher education.

The Presidency issued a statement on the Commission of Inquiry into higher education and training on Saturday morning.

The commission recommended that government increase funding to the post-school education and training sector as a whole in line with increased costs for providing quality education and infrastructure needs.