Pretoria, South Africa : While American students are drowning in student loan debt, South Africa, is pushing ahead with a plan to offer free university education to students from poor households and will announce funding details in February’s budget, Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, told reporters at a televised news conference in Pretoria on Tuesday.
President Jacob Zuma said in December that the government would bankroll the tuition without giving details of how it would be funded.
The announcement rattled financial markets and critics said it was a populist promise that risked widening an already gaping budget deficit.
A government report and the treasury said the plan was unaffordable.
Some critics also said the timing of the announcement, which came days before Zuma stepped down as leader of the ruling African National Congress, showed he no longer cared about fiscal responsibility.
Gigaba said that costs estimates had been finalised and the plan would be implemented over eight years.
“The president found himself in an invidious position …. It is about how to manage the process and implement it in a sustainable manner without having to breach the fiscal expenditure ceiling,’’ he said.”
“If the president had not acted this year to provide some funding it would have resulted in further protests,” he said.
Since 2015 protests by students demanding free education rocked campuses across the country, disrupting teaching and examinations and culminating in a march to Zuma’s offices in Pretoria that saw the president freeze tuition increases.
Meanwhile, South Africa has formally lodged a protest to the U.S. embassy in Pretoria and summoned the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in the capital, Pretoria – after Trump called Haiti, El Salvador and African nations “s***hole countries” during an Oval Office meeting on immigration.
The Nigerian government has summoned the US ambassador, Stuart Symington, to explain the derogatory comments made by President Donald Trump which referred to African countries as a s***hole.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Tope Elias-Fatile, in a text message to journalists in Abuja, said the US diplomat will met government officials on Monday.
Ghana also summoned its US ambassador, Robert Porter Jackson, to protest President Trump’s alleged uncomplimentary remarks.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Shirley Ayorkor Botchway said Ghana would not tolerate unprovoked attacks and attempts by Trump to denigrate their freedoms and rights.
Namibia last week issued a strong statement condemning Mr. Trump.
The alleged remarks drew worldwide condemnation, with many people calling the U.S. president a racist leader.