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ANC responding with caution to student-fee report

SOUTH Africa’s ruling ANC cautiously welcomed yesterday a report on university tuition fees that recommended they stay in place, but are paid back through a higher rate of tax.

The Heher commission, which wrote the report, was set up following anti-fees protests in 2015 and 2016. Those protests were tense and eventually saw violence — university buildings were set alight and one worker was killed.

The report rejected abolishing tuition fees. It supported students taking out loans from private banks, which would be guaranteed by the government.

The loans would be repaid by levying an additional tax once a graduate’s income passes a certain threshold.

The ANC executive urged the government to “reject the proposal for a cost-sharing model which will further indebt students.”

“Free education for the poor and the working class is not under discussion,” it insisted, being standing ANC policy and a demand of the 1955 Freedom Charter.

The ANC Youth League urged that the “main players be both government and the private sector, which should contribute.”

But the Young Communist League insisted that fees must be abolished and education paid for “through a corporate education tax charged progressively on the size of profit” made by big companies.

The National Union of Mineworkers youth structure also opposed the involvement of the banks, as did the ANC women’s league.

“Some of the commercial banks in South Africa are fingered in the manipulation of the currency and the largest share of the top South  African banks is owned by foreigners whose interest is to maximise profit,” the league said.

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